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The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspending ties with the embassies of U.N. Security Council members; Chicago's deadliest year in two decades. Police are investigating 27 shooting incidents; The flight data recorder from the Russian military plane that crashed in the Black Sea has been found; Prime Minister of Japan to visit the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor; President-elect Donald Trump will give up his charitable foundation; In South Korea, some lawmakers are quitting the ruling conservative party; After more than two years in Boko Haram captivity, 21 Chibok schoolgirls released; George Michael, pop superstar sudden death at 53 years-old; India test fire first intercontinental ballistic missile; Thousands of migrants are traveling to Latin America, hoping for a better life in the United States. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired December 27, 2016 - 03:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

[03:00:00] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN HOST: Intensifying anger as Israel's criticism of the White House, well, becomes a little more personal.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN HOST: Home for the holidays, some of the freed Chibok schoolgirls reunite with their family for the first time in years.

HOWELL: And a healing moment marking a painful history. Japan's prime minister offers his condolences at Pearl Harbor.

CHURCH: Hello and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and of course all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. CNN Newsroom starts right now.

3:00 a.m. on the U.S. East coast. The relationship between Israel and the current U.S. president, well, you could say it's rocky at best, but in its waning weeks the Obama administration will lay out its vision for something that's long been out of reach, Middle East peace.

CHURCH: America's top diplomat, John Kerry, is expected to speak about that vision in the coming days. This comes as relations between the Obama White House and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government are hitting a new low. More now from Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doubling down on criticism, not only Of President Barack Obama but also diplomatic moves against the Security Council countries that voted for this resolution. He said these diplomatic steps aren't going too far. He called them "responsible and vigorous actions." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accusing President Barack Obama of

working behind Israel's back to put forward the U.N. Security Council resolution critical of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The two leaders have always had a rocky relationship. Now in its final days, it is quickly deteriorating. Netanyahu hasn't held back at all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAELI: As I told John Kerry on Thursday, friends don't take friends to the Security Council.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LIEBERMANN: The Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer speaking to CNN, one many Israeli officials who's made the accusation but not offered any evidence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RON DERMER, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: But it's an old story that the United Nations gangs up against Israel. What is new is that the United States did not stand up and oppose that gang up. And what is outrageous is that the United States was actually behind the ganged up. I think it was a very sad day and really a shameful chapter in U.S.-Israel relationship.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Ambassador, what's the evidence that the United States was behind this gang up? I've heard that a lot.

DERMER: Well we have clear evidence of it. We will present that evidence to the new administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LIEBERMANN: Netanyahu turned to president-elect Donald Trump who urged Obama to veto the U.N. resolution and then waiting on twitter. First he tweeted, "As to the U.N., things will be different after January 20th." He followed that up with another tweet, "The big loss yesterday for Israel in the United Nations will make it much harder to negotiate peace. Too bad but we will get it done any way."

Netanyahu hasn't just lashed out at the U.S. Israel called in the U.S. ambassador and ambassadors of 10 other countries that voted for the U.N. resolution. But those countries met with met with the foreign ministry. It was only the U.S. ambassador who met privately with Netanyahu. One more statement directed at President Barack Obama before he leaves office.

So, why now? Prime Minister Netanyahu knows of course that he only has a few more weeks until he has president-elect Trump in office to work with, and he's made it very clear he is looking forward to Obama being out and Trump being in. This other than perhaps being a parting shot at Obama, also may have a little local politics mixed in. Obama's not popular at all with Netanyahu's voters, and he may be playing to them as this unfolds. Oren Liebermann, CNN Jerusalem. CHURCH: And I spoke earlier with Gil Hoffman of the "Jerusalem Post."

I asked him what has prompted so much concern and anger by Israel at this non-binding U.N. resolution.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GILL HOFFMAN, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, JERUSALEM POST: So what Israel is trying to do is to try to prevent there from being another resolution between now and January 20th. Netanyahu had taken such drastic measures that have been described by opposition members of parliament as hysteria.

He has taken these steps because there's a possibility that when the French have a conference on the 15th of January where the secretary of state John Kerry is supposed to make very important address on Middle East issues that that address would then be taken in the remaining five days before Trump takes over to the U.N. Security Council to become another resolution that Israel sees as hand cuffing it.

Israel sees this hindering a possibility at a peace process in the future because it gives the Palestinians hope that they'll get their way from international community and won't have to give anything up in talks where there would be give and take.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Gil Hoffman, chief political correspondent and analyst for the "Jerusalem Post" speaking with me just a short time ago.

[03:0:00] HOWELL: More now on the U.S., president-elect Donald Trump said that he will give up his charitable foundation in order to avoid a possible conflict of interest when he becomes president of the United States -- that day of course January 20th. Still there are critics who say there's more to it.

CHURCH: Yes. There are claims that the foundation is less charitable than most and may have even broken the law. CNN's Dana Bash has more on the future of Trump's business.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The president-elect's team is frantically trying to figure what to do about his vast business interest. Even Trump owned properties like Mar-a-Lago where he's staying for the holidays.

But they're off to a tough start. A Christmas Eve transition announcement about shattering (ph) the Trump charitable foundation hit a road block. The New York attorney general who is investing the foundation's alleged violations said through a spokeswoman the Trump Foundation is still under investigation by this office and cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete.

A "Washington Post" investigation reported the foundation spent $258,000 to settle legal problems, unrelated to the charity and Trump separately used charity money to buy a six-foot tall portrait of himself. A former GOP White House ethics attorney says dissolving the foundation could take time.

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS ATTORNEY: You need to make sure the foundation is completely independent of your for-profit business enterprises. You cannot have self-dealing in foundations and I don't know whether the rules were violated here or not.

BASH: Regardless of the investigation, ceasing operations on the Trump Foundation is hardly a heavy lift. Trump hasn't donated since 2008 and it has no paid staff. The real question is how Trump will separate himself from the for-profit Trump Organization, a worldwide empire including Trump Golf, international realty, Trump winery and Trump hotels.

The law does not require a president to divest himself from business interests, but potential conflicts abound. People could try to influence the president by staying at his hotels, for example. And the most difficult hurdle could be the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution which specifically prevents elected officials from accepting any present or money from foreign governments or leaders.

PAINTER: There are a whole lot of problems that I think President Trump could deal with by selling off his business interests or giving them over to a trustee, in a blind trust so the trustee can figure out how to dispose of these properties and he could focus on being president.

BASH: A press conference intended to detail how Trump will sort all this out was scheduled for two weeks ago, but that was delayed until January to give them more time. An attorney for the Trump organization tells CNN it is continuing to re-evaluate various transactions they are involved in to take measures to comply with all conflict laws.

Ethics experts say the only real ironclad way to separate the Trump administration from the business is putting it in a blind trust but the president-elect is resisting and instead sources say he's leaning towards finding a way to let his two eldest sons run the Trump organization.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Dana Bash, thank you for the reporting. Donald Trump is defending his efforts, misspelling the word "received" in this tweet that he put out Monday but still saying the following in it, "I gave millions of dollars to the Donald J. Trump Foundation, raised or received millions more. All of which is given to charity and the media won't report."

CHURCH: Well, Donald Trump said there's no way President Obama could have beaten him in this year's election if he were eligible to run for a third term.

HOWELL: Mr. Obama claims his message of hope and change that that could still win despite the fact the Democratic Party lost so much -- was defeated in November. Here's what the president told CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BRACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: In the wake of the election and Trump winning, a lot of people have suggested that somehow, it really was a fantasy. I am confident in this vision because I'm confident that if I -- if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could have mobilized the majority of the American people to rally behind it.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

HOWELL: Joining me now from Washington is CNN political analyst Josh Rogan. He is also a columnist from the "Washington Post." Josh, good to have you with us. So, President Obama said Monday he would have beaten Donald Trump had he run for a third term -- run again for the presidency. Trump says no way. Who do you think is right here? Is President Obama reading the electorate correctly or is he misreading what happened in this election?

[03:10:00] JOSH ROGAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think what President Obama is referring to is the fact that Hillary Clinton lost a lot of districts especially in the traditionally blue rust belt that President Obama had carried twice. It's a subtle dig at Hillary Clinton for not doing more to keep what he thinks of as the Obama coalition together.

The thing is it -- was the Obama coalition, there is reason to think that Obama could have held it together but in that fictional race who knows what might have happened. The bottomline is that President Obama doesn't want Hillary Clinton's loss to be a reflection on his legacy. That's what he's trying to do here with that sly kind of comment.

HOWELL: Let's talk about the president-elect's response. He did respond saying the following, "the world was gloomy before I won. There was no hope. Now the market is up nearly 10 percent and Christmas spending is over a trillion dollars." Your thoughts there.

ROGAN: Yes, President Obama is a very popular president right now. His approval ratings are over 50 percent. You know -- I guess the fact that Donald Trump won the election gives credence to his claim that most Americans thought that it was headed in the wrong direction. But the fact that he also lost the popular vote shows that it wasn't a clear mandate or a clear message really one way or the other and the fact that Christmas spending is up probably has nothing to do with the Donald Trump win. It's more something like the rooster taking credit for the sunrise.

HOWELL: Josh, let's talk foreign policy specifically the situation between the Obama administration and Israel. John Kerry is expected to lay out the administration's vision for the Middle East peace process. Kerry has been to Israel and the Palestinian territories now more than a dozen times in his tenure but most tellingly that came in the first year. Those efforts appear to have lost steam. This is how the Israeli prime minister now describes the latest turn of events as the U.S. declined to veto a U.N. Security Council criticism of Israeli settlements in the west bank. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NETANYAHU: Over decades, the American administration and Israeli governments have disagreed about settlements but we agreed that the Security Council was not the place to resolve this issue. We know that going there would make negotiations harder and drive peace further away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Netanyahu even said that friends don't take friends to the Security Council. How would you interpret what's going on here?

ROGAN: It's just a collapse of what was already a very bad, shaky, and unfriendly sort of personal relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. I think the Obama administration had a list of things they might do in these final days to try to set the stage for progress in the Middle East peace process.

The first thing they did, which was to not veto this resolution, condemning settlements, has already become a major crisis in U.S.- Israel relations and not to mention U.S. relations with the United Nations.

So John Kerry's second effort here to sort of lay out the parameters of the Middle East peace process is going to fall upon deaf ears in Israel. They have decided they don't want to work with the Obama administration anymore. They are mounting a challenge against the U.N. and all of the countries that supported this resolution and they're just going to wait for the Trump administration so why would they listen to John Kerry when they can get much better terms in only a month.

HOWELL: Josh Rogan, thank you so much for your insights.

ROGAN: Anytime.

CHURCH: And we turn to the political landscape in South Korea now. Some lawmakers there are quitting the ruling conservative party and now forming their own. The 29 lawmakers were members Of President Park Geun-Hye's party.

HOWELL: They now say those who remain loyal to President Park Geun- Hye, that those people have forgotten true conservative values. The party will now be called "The Newly Reformed Conservative Party." President Park if you'll remember was impeached earlier this month over a major corruption scandal.

Now to Nigeria, after more than two years in Boko Haram captivity, 21 Chibok schoolgirls will bring in the New Year with their families.

CHURCH: It's an extraordinary story. And the militants kidnapped nearly 300 girls from a boarding school back in 2014, if you'd recall. CNN's Isha Sesay has this exclusive story of the girls' journey back home.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After almost 2 1/2 years in Boko Haram captivity, at last it's time to go home. Having covered the Chibok girl's abduction from the very beginning, I'm going to make the long journey from Abuja to Chibok with them.

They're going home. How are you feeling? Somebody tell me, what is the feeling in your heart right now? You're happy? For all the talk of excitement, some of these girls are also nervous.

Don't be nervous. Don't be afraid, OK. You hold your faith. You hold on to your faith, OK? OK? The same faith that kept you all those months.

[03:15:00] With the girls on the move, there are more smiles as they chat and giggle freely amongst themselves. Once we land in Yola, the girls are welcomed by some of the Chibok community leaders as well as the governor of Adamawa state. The road to Chibok is too dangerous to travel after dark, the girls spend the night at a local hotel. Outside, a large security cordon is put in place. Inside, with their journey delayed, they gather in one room to do what they were unable do while in Boko Haram captivity.

(SINGING)

SESAY: I learn from Rebecca Mallam and Glory Dama they were singing local Christian hymns. While in captivity, their Christianity was not tolerated by the Boko Haram terrorists.

What have you been doing since you're at Abuja?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) We are very grateful. We are grateful for them because they have done good for us and when we are in Abuja we are playing football. We have English class. That we are learning how to speak in English and writing very well.

SESAY: You guys look so different since I saw you in October. How are you feeling now from that time to now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are feeling beautiful because -- since we came, we --

SESAY: You can tell me. You can tell me because you are beautiful.

The next morning, a military convoy escorts the girls to Chibok, a place that holds the promise of long-awaited family reunions and memories of a fateful night.

So the convoy has stopped in a town called (INAUDIBLE) which is about an hour away from Chibok. But the movement through these parts that are well-armed convoy is drawing attention from passersby. As we enter Chibok town, locals wave excitedly welcoming their girls' home.

The moment of reunion eventually arrives. The room almost vibrating with the sounds of unbridled joy. But for some waiting parents, heart break. These women have come looking for their daughters who are still being held by Boko Haram. They had thought their children were among the group who were coming home for Christmas.

There has been such an outpouring of grief amid the joy. The piercing screams of mothers realizing that indeed they are not to be reunited with their daughters on this day which has turned what should have been an overwhelmingly happy moment into a bittersweet one.

For Rebecca and her father, the nightmare is over and her father is overcome with feelings of gratitude. Given all they have endured, the mental and physical abuse at the hands of their captors, the years of painful separation from their loved ones, this reunion here in Chibok moves these fractured families and their community a step closer to wholeness. Isha Sesay, CNN Chibok, Nigeria.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: She really has been on the forefront of that story. It is her reporting but the personal touch that she's given it. It just really drives it home.

CHURCH: Yes, and the whole emotional journey for those girls.

HOWELL: Absolutely.

CHURCH: Well, next here on CNN Newsroom, fans are saying good-bye to George Michael a day after his sudden death. More on the British singer's rise to stardom and his personal struggles. We're back in a moment.

[03:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON RIDELL, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, I'm Don Riddell with your CNN World Sport Headlines.

Chelsea are not slowing down in their pursuit of a fifth Premier League title. In fact, they're pulling clear in historic fashion. Monday's home win against (INAUDIBLE) was their 4th consecutive victory, new club record. It means they're now seven points clear of second place Manchester City and within touching distance of an all- time Premier League record. Arsenal won 14 straight back in 2002.

Meanwhile, things are looking up for Chelsea's former manager Jose Mourinho. He made a difficult start of Manchester United this season, but United have won four straight and are unbeaten in the league since the end of October. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has had a lot to do with that. He was on target in United's 3-1 the win against Sunderland -- his 12th goal in 17 league games.

He's now scored nine goals more than any other of his teammates in the league. Not bad for a 35-year-old supposedly in the twilight of his career. United have won their last four and they're just four points off a top four place.

And the teams many expect to meet in the NBA finals of this season have met in a heavyweight Christmas day clash. Cleveland and Golden State served up an instant classic. Analyst praised it as the best regular season game in years. The Cavs staging a dramatic late comeback the snap Golden State's seven game winning streak. The Warriors will try to revenge when they play again next month. That is a quick look at your sports headlines.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

HOWELL: I think it's fair to say, you know, the music of George Michael from "Wham"" to the solo career that he had, his music just brought people to their feet.

CHURCH: Just incredible. And fans are holding on to those tunes as they say goodbye to the late British pop star. Ian Lee reports.

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a familiar scene in 2016, fans grappling with how to say good-bye to an icon. While many of them never knew George Michael personally, they paid tribute as if they were old friends.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

LEE: The pop superstar's sudden death at just 53 years-old has come as a shock to his fans around the world. The singer reportedly died of suspected heart failure at his home in Oxfordshire, England. His death is being treated by police as unexplained but not suspicious. It comes after a close call in 2011 when he was hospitalized with acute pneumonia. At the time, George Michael spoke movingly of his gratefulness at being alive. Now outside the same home, his fans have gathered to mourn.

A lot of the heartfelt tributes talk about the impact George Michael had on their lives. For many people, he was the soundtrack of their youth, something they want to share with their children.

What is your favorite George Michael song?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Last Christmas."

LEE: Why do you guys like it so much?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's a bit new to us really because we are all used to like Bruno Mars and that, but dad's been saying, oh, you have to listen to like the '80s songs. They're really good.

LEE: These three sisters came to lay flowers. For them, it's like losing a family member.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, he was Greek (INAUDIBLE). We are Greek. We liked him for -- he was just class. We grew up with him. We are his age. [03:25:00] He's our idol, always will be. We'll never forget him and his music will live on.

LEE: Over three decades and more than 100 million record sales later, the world now says its good-byes to George Michael. Ian Lee, CNN, London.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

CHURCH: And earlier I spoke with entertainment journalist Holland Reid about a difficult period in George Michael's life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: But 1998 was a bad year for him. He was forced to come out and declare his sexuality as a gay man --

HOLLAND REID, ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALIST: Yes.

CHURCH: That was because of the arrest. He was arrested for soliciting sex from a male undercover officer in a California bathroom. Then he had more run-ins with the law. He had a bad car accident. He was never able to overcome those problems, was he? Of the problems (ph) he's had, why was he not able to (INAUDIBLE)?

REID: Gosh, I mean if I had that answer, you know, it's so unfortunate. This is a man that donated all of the proceeds from the song "Last Christmas" to Band Aid. This is a person who worked hand in hand with Elton John. He was an advocate. He raised so much money for charity off of his own talent.

And then for him to only be kind of dragged through the media over controversy, again, the sting operation which made him -- forced him to come out. Coming out isn't for everyone and for him, being such a public figure and giving so much, like I said before, to the community and to the world and then have to address something so personal in a way that just, you know, he even said himself, he was not ashamed.

He was not ashamed of the sexuality. He was ashamed that it came out in a stupid way, in such a ridiculous way, you know. And then again, the drug abuse, the addiction, the issues that he had just in his personal life. I hope that we can look at that and go, that was a small part of his existence, his time here. That he did so much good. He did so much for charities, for human rights.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHURCH: Entertainment journalist Holland Reid talking to me a little earlier.

HOWELL: It has been 75 years since Japan attacked pearl harbor and now the nation's prime minister is about to visit a memorial to the U.S. battleship that was bombed there. What his historic visit to Pearl Harbor means for relations between the United States and Japan as CNN Newsroom continues.

[03:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: Well, a warm welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and of course all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. This is CNN Newsroom with the headlines we are following for you this hour.

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is suspending ties with the embassies of 12 U.N. Security Council members. The council approved a resolution condemning Israeli settlements last week. Israel is also furious with the United States, which it accuses of initiating the measure. The United States denies that.

CHURCH: Chicago's deadliest year in two decades got even worse over the holiday weekend. Police are investigating 27 shooting incidents, a dozen of which were fatal. The United States third largest city has seen 753 homicides so far this year.

HOWELL: The flight data recorder from the Russian military plane that crashed in the Black Sea, that data recorder has been found. This is according to Russian state-run (INAUDIBLE). The country says there are no signs of terrorist attacks behind the crash. The plane went down minutes after takeoff. All 92 people on board were killed.

CHURCH: In the coming hours, Shinzo Abe will be the first prime minister of Japan to visit the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. Accompanying him, President Obama.

HOWELL: Mr. Abe is in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he is set to lay wreaths -- he's laid wreaths at two cemeteries on Monday. Athena Jones talked with an eyewitness to Pearl Harbor to the attack about the Japanese leader's historic visit and what it means to him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ninety-five year-old Robert Lee says he's glad to see Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe making this trip.

ROBERT LEE, PEARL HARBOR WITNESS: I think it's the greatest thing in the world. I think we've already gone through quite a bit of healing.

JONES: He remembers well the day of Japan's surprise attack 75 years ago when more than 2,400 people lost their lives.

LEE: It's very vivid in my memory, very much so.

JONES: Still a young man, just two years out of high school ROTC, he looked on from his bedroom. Later dashing to his front lawn as Japanese bombers flew low over his home, headed for battleship row.

LEE: I grabbed my .22 caliber target rifle and shot all 16 .22 caliber lead shots.

JONES: At the plane?

LEE: At the plane.

JONES: Thinking that it would work?

LEE: Of course not. It was just to kill a mouse.

JONES: He watched as the USS Arizona just a mile away exploded.

LEE: It was that orange -- red-orange color, about three seconds and then it exploded. The fire went up hundreds of feet from this, from the whole ship, and the crackling of the fire was overwhelming.

JONES: As those who could fought back, Lee helped to wash the oil off of sailors who jumped to safety. Their ships under attack. Later helping to transport the injured to treatment facilities. By midnight, he had joined the military, serving domestically throughout the war. It was a long, emotional day that left Lee angry, but he isn't angry anymore.

LEE: Hate is the greatest destroyer of anyone. The idea that you can harbor hate will destroy you.

JONES: It's that understanding the president celebrated at Hiroshima.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Since that fateful day, we have made choices that give us hope. The United States and Japan forged not only an alliance but a friendship that is won far more for our people than we could ever claim through war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: A message Prime Minister Abe is certain to echo as he pays tribute at this watery grave, now a sacred site. Athena Jones, CNN, Honolulu, Hawaii.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[03:35:03] HOWELL: Joining me now to talk from Singapore is Andrew Staples. He is the director of the Economic Corporate Network North Asia. It's good to have you with us.

CHURCH: Thank you sir for speaking with us. Now, how significant is this visit by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, coming as it does after President Barack Obama's visit to Hiroshima and what does it say about U.S.-Japan relations?

ANDREW STAPLES, DIRECTOR, ECONOMIC CORPORATE NETWORK NORT ASIA: It comes at a very interesting time for Prime Minister Abe, for Japan and Japan-U.S. relations as you mentioned a little earlier on. President Obama visited Hiroshima earlier in the year and that was the first time for a U.S. President to make that official visit to Hiroshima.

And so in some sense, you can see this is a reciprocal act by Prime Minister Abe. But it goes much deeper than that. Prime Minister Abe's foreign policy is looking a little bit shaky of late and particularly with the election of Mr. Trump who'll be coming into office next year. There are some serious concerns about the state of the relationship between Japan and the United States.

HOWELL: And just, you know, pushing on that point, you know, this is a time where we have seen the Russian president visit Japan. So, you know, talk to us just about the state of affairs when it comes to the U.S. relationship.

STAPLES: Well, the relationship between Japan and the United States goes back a long way. And as we heard a little bit earlier on from President Obama, this is more than an alliance. It's a very deep friendship that's been in place throughout the post-war period. President Putin's visit last week actually partly legacy of the Second World War and territorial planes north of Hokkaido.

Actually that was seen widely disappointing for Abe in terms of getting any kind of concrete achievement -- a sign of that meeting. And Abe is certainly keen to have something of a more positive foreign policy event with this visit to Hawaii. It's very interesting. It will play very well in Washington. It should play very well with the Trump team, as well.

It will certainly go some way to countering some of the criticisms of Japan in the (INAUDIBLE) period and particularly Abe himself who, let's remember is something of a hawkish nationalist that Japan hasn't atoned for its actions in the Second World War. And so this visit will go a long way to countering some of that. I think it was all -- sorry, go ahead.

CHURCH: Well, you did mention the administration of president-elect Donald Trump. How might that change Japan-United States relations do you think?

STAPLES: Well, this will go back to two key issues. First of all security, which is the relationship the United States is absolutely fundamental to Japan's security and their economic issue, particularly around trade. Prime Minister Abe put the Transpacific Partnership, TPP, at the heart of his structural reform program.

Unfortunately, president-elect Trump said he will not sign that agreement and this has left Abe and Japan in something of a difficult position. In terms of security, president-elect Trump has been talking about the need for allies such as Japan and South Korea to be paying far more the host, U.S. troops, ushering something in -- something of a transactional nature into those relations as well.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Abe as a (INAUDIBLE) and as a nationalist and he's been pushing for a much greater defense budget. And we just saw the budget proposed last week, which will be the fifth straight year of an increase in defense spending.

Prime Minister Abe wants to reinsert to the constitution to allow Japan to engage in mutual defense to play a more proactive role. All of this will play very, very well with the the incoming U.S. Administration. And so, this visit I think will really be seen positively in those terms, as well.

HOWELL: It is historic just to see these two leaders. One visiting the other country and vice-versa. Andrew Staples with the Economist Corporate Network North Asia. Thank you so much.

CHURCH: And in less than a month, Donald Trump will control the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

HOWELL: Why some world leaders though worry about his plans for the future. Stay with us.

[03:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN Newsroom. India has test fired its first intercontinental ballistic missile. A significance is this -- that would weapon would put Beijing and other Chinese cities within range.

CHURCH: It comes as world leaders are concerned the U.S. could expand its nuclear arsenal under president-elect Donald Trump. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has more.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Less than a month before he takes command of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, the world still is not sure what president-elect Donald Trump meant with his tweet, "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."

A Trump administration move to expand the nuclear arsenal would be a stunning and unprecedented reversal of both Democratic and Republican foreign policy largely set by Ronald Reagan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONADL REAGAN, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.

(APPLAUSE)

The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used, but then would it not be better to do away with them entirely?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: Reagan overcame his own opposition to arms control, sat down with Mikhail Gorbachev and negotiated nuclear arms limit. But Trump doubled down, commentating to a TV morning anchor in a dramatic statement delivered in a surreal festive setting.

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MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MORNING JOE HOST, MSNBC: He told me on the phone let it be an arms race because we will outmatch them at every path and outlast them all.

EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA/UKRAINE/EURASIA: Anytime any president talks about a nuclear arms race it should be alarming for the whole world because the last thing we need are more nuclear weapons, more (INAUDIBLE) material out there.

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STARR: Vladimir Putin already signaling he won't bankrupt his economy on a nuclear race.

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[03:45:00] VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: If someone accelerates and speeds up the arms race, it will not be us. I would say that we will never if we are in an arms race, we will never spend too much.

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STARR: But Putin is moving ahead.

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NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The Russians in the last few years have increased the capacity -- capability of their systems dramatically.

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STARR: It's not known if trump has been briefed and if he believes the U.S. Intelligence assessment that Russia is testing and possibly getting ready to field a new nuclear capable ground-launched missile, a potential violation of a 1987 treaty negotiated by Reagan and Gorbachev.

FARKAS: Under President Putin, the Russians have violated that agreement. They have not admitted it and they have not yet to our knowledge fielded those weapons. But once they do, that will be an immediate threat to our European allies and probably on President Donald Trump's watch. He'll have to do something about it.

STARR: So where do things stand now? The Europeans indeed are nervous and the North Koreans may well be planning another underground nuclear test. Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

HOWELL: Barbara Starr, thank you. Now, to talk about the fastest animal on land. Researchers say that it is at risk of going extinct. They say that only about 7,100 cheetahs still exist in the world.

CHURCH: They wanted status changed from what it is now, vulnerable to endangered to better protect them. Cheetahs which hunt across a vast amount of land are facing increasing threats as human encroach on them, and their habitat, hunt them and kill their pray.

Next here on CNN Newsroom, a migrant woman journeys through Latin America trying to reach a better life in the U.S. for her growing family.

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KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I'm CNN Meteorologist Karen Maginnis and this is your weather watch. A real roller coaster ride for temperatures and for weather all across the United States. One storm system is moving in, into the Pacific Northwest, lowering snow levels there.

A good portion of the nation's mid section clearing out rather nicely. We needed that after the ice, the snow, the blizzard conditions in the northern tier. And now frontal system sweeps across the eastern seaboard and its way kind of gray overcast skies. It definitely looks and feels very winter-like.

In Chicago, sunshine and zero. That's actually going to be pretty good compared to what we have seen lately. Los Angeles, 21. Vancouver some showers. A little overcast sky conditions for Atlanta and 21. New York City, morning showers and 13 degrees. Thirteen degrees in New York City for this time of the year.

[03:50:00] I'd hang on to that for a while. That sounds pretty good. Havana mostly sunny and 29. Mexico City, we'll see a 23. Cartagena is looking at 31. San Juan 28 and just a few showers expected there. Northern sections of South America, well, for (INAUDIBLE) look 31, some thunderstorms. La Paz 16. Rio de Janeiro mostly sunny and 38. Going a little bit further to the south, Buenos Aires 28, and partly cloudy.

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HOWELL: Thousands of migrants are traveling to Latin America, hoping to head north for a better life in the United States, but it's a long journey and that journey is proving to be a ripe opportunity for human traffickers to take advantage of them.

CHURCH: CNN's Freedom Project has the story of one pregnant woman, who is hoping to give her child the American dream before it's too late. Shasta Darlington has the story.

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SHASTA DARLINGTON: Costa Rica is known for its vast beaches and rugged rainforests, a destination that draws tourists from all over the world. None of that is why 22-year-old Yolanda is here. She agreed to speak with me on the condition that we not show her face on camera.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): My situation has been very difficult since I left Brazil. I have been on the road almost three months.

DARLINGTON: Yolanda says she is originally from Congo. She and her husband among tens of thousands of migrants from around the globe, crisscrossing South and Central America in their struggle to reach the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (through translator): A lot of roads. Lots of bus rides and a little walking, too. I packed (ph) to Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Panama before arriving in Costa Rica.

DARLINGTON: Yolanda says she arrived four days ago, hoping to quickly receive a laissez-passer, the document she and her husband need to legally enter Costa Rica and transit north to the next border. Only to discover they'll have to wait six weeks just for an appointment with Costa Rican immigration officials. As the government copes with an unprecedented influx of immigrants.

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MAURICIO HERRERA ULLOA: We are absolutely overwhelmed with this situation and we are doing our best to protect the human rights of the people who have come to Costa Rica.

DARLINGTON: Yolanda takes me to the makeshift hostel where she's staying, just a short walk from the border. Her options are limited. Without paperwork she doesn't have access to government shelters yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I'm staying at a hostel that has more than 50 people. We pay $5 a day. The situation is very difficult. We're sleeping on a mattress on the floor.

DARLINGTON: Making matters even more challenging, Yolanda is seven months pregnant. She hasn't seen a doctor in two months and she's worried.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I hope to leave soon for my turn to come quickly so I can see a doctor. I don't want my baby to be born on the road. If I have to spend a month here, I don't know what will happen.

DARLINGTON: Yolanda says she left Congo for Brazil where she lived for a year working in a restaurant. When she and her husband lost their jobs, they decided to leave, dreaming of a better life for themselves and the daughter they hope will be born in the United States. The odds are not in fair favor. Tens of thousands of migrants are on the move throughout Central and South America and experts say many are at risk of human trafficking.

CY WINTER, DIRECTOR OF BORDER MANAGEMENT, INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MIGRATION: From here north, the Nicaraguan border is closed. It is much more difficult to get into Mexico. There are some serious criminal elements that will prey on them along the way.

DARLINGTON: Officials believe a majority of the migrants are actually from Haiti, even though most say they're from Congo. As one migrant told me off camera, here Congo isn't a country it's a password for Haitian migrants.

WINTER: The people that I've spoken to claiming to be from Congo who barely even know the capital and don't know the dialects that are spoken into Congo and know the football jersey of the Congo and all of these things, they typically are convinced that people from the Congo can't be deported to the Congo.

[03:55:05] DARLINGTON: That's because it costs a lot more for governments in the Americas to deport people from Africa than to Haiti. It's also easier for Haitians to pass themselves off as Congolese because like Haiti, Congo is a French speaking country.

When I first met Yolanda, I asked her the name of her hometown and she couldn't quite pronounce it. Brazzaville, the capital of Congo. And as I watched her and her husband walk away, I couldn't help but wonder about where they came from and where this journey will ultimately take them. Shasta Darlington, CNN on the Costa Rican-Panamanian border.

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CHURCH: Just one of many difficult stories we have to tell you. And on Wednesday, we will introduce you to a young woman who was tricked into sex slavery and the organization she credits with changing her life. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): She told me they got you a passport and gave you money for your family. And if you don't like the place, you could go back. So I asked her what type of work was available there and she said there was work as a waitress or in an office, nothing to do with prostitution.

It was all a lie. Karina (ph) said she was immediately forced into sex slavery. Held against her will, forced to have sex with as many as five men at a time and paid nothing.

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CHURCH: And hear how she managed to escape and where she is now. That's Wednesday on our freedom project series perilous journey, only on CNN.

HOWELL: And we thank you for being with us for this hour of CNN Newsroom. I'm George Howell.

CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church. Do remember to connect with us anytime on twitter. We'd love to hear from you. "Early Start" is next here in the United States and for everyone else, the news continues next with Isa Soares in London. Have a great day.

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