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Trump and Abe React to North Korean Missile Launch; North Korea Test-Fires Ballistic Missile; U.S. Immigration Authorities Arrest Hundreds; Mexico Tries to Aid Its Citizens in the U.S.; Putin Ready to Meet Trump Restore U.S. Russia Ties; Clowns Fill Church Pews for Tribute Service. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired February 12, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:15] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: 4:00 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world as we follow breaking news this hour on CNN out of North Korea. I'm George Howell.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Paula Newton. Pyongyang has test- fired yet another missile. The U.S. official says it was an intermediate range ballistic missile. Sources say it was launched from a province in the country's north.

HOWELL: It traveled about 300 miles, that's some 500 kilometers, before landing in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea. This happened just after the U.S. president Donald Trump was hosting the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe in Florida. Standing side by side, both leaders made a very brief statement about Pyongyang's latest provocation. Let's listen.


SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (Through Translator): North Korea's most recent missile launch is absolutely intolerable. North Korea must fully comply with the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions. During this summit meeting that I had with President Trump, he assured me that the United States will always with Japan 100 percent. And to demonstrate his determination as well as commitment, he is now here with me at this joint press conference.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister. I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent. Thank you.


HOWELL: The big international story, of course, we are following it with CNN's Matt Rivers live this hour in Seoul, South Korea.

Matt, obviously that is a nation that's paying very close attention to what happens to its neighbor to the north. What reaction are you hearing from there? MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're getting the kind of

reaction that frankly we hear from the South Korean government every time one of these missile tests happen. You know, the missile that was tested this morning here is the kind of thing the South Koreans have gotten used to especially over the last year or so. In 2016 there was some 24 ballistic missile tests like this one, although it's interesting because this is the first one that the South Koreans have seen since October 20th. This is of course the first test that has been launched since Donald Trump assumed the presidency.

But in terms of how South Koreans are responding, they say what they always say in terms of if they're going to pursue further punitive action, they're going to be working with their allies like the United States in order to do so. And they are trying to also further clarify exactly whether this test was a success or a failure in the eyes of the North Koreans, just telling perhaps that we really haven't seen any state media announcements coming out of North Korea. Oftentimes you do see state media in North Korea use grand rhetoric when talking about extreme successes by Kim Jong-un, the great leader of North Korea, as they call him.

And so we haven't seen that yet. South Korean officials still kind of piecing together the evidence here. But frankly this is something they've been through before and they're just dealing with it once again.

NEWTON: Yes, Matt, it's so interesting that we haven't seen that reaction from state media in North Korea because as you said they use it as some type of propaganda tool. In terms of the fact that this was not an intercontinental ballistic missile, what is the read on that from where you're sitting in South Korea?

RIVERS: Well, that -- had an ICBM been tested, that is what would have made this test stand out. You know, on January 1st Kim Jong-un gave a New Year's Day address in which he said that the North Korean were preparing the final stages of technology in order to be able to successfully test an ICBM. That long-range missile that could be hitting -- capable of hitting targets like the United States thousands of kilometers away.

So many experts were wondering when inevitably this first missile test of the year took place, would it be one of those ICBMs? That was the thing that experts were kind of openly discussing and that is what would have made this particular missile test stand out.

The fact that it didn't happen shows that the North Koreans, at least not yet, don't have the kind of technology to be able to do so. That said, they are moving towards that point. There is unanimous agreement amongst the experts in this field that the North Koreans are determined to develop this long-range delivery system, this long-range missile system and that it is really only a matter of time before these intermediate-type missiles that have been tested transform into these long-range missiles and that certainly will provide a whole new level of worry for South Korea, for Japan and of course for the United States.

[04:05:12] NEWTON: Our Matt Rivers there watching the situation live from Seoul, we appreciate it.

Meantime, CNN's Athena Jones has more on the White House reaction to North Korea's missile launch.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there. That's right. We did hear brief statements from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and an even briefer statement, I should say, from President Trump here tonight at Mar-a-Lago, the president's estate here in Palm Beach.

Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan, saying that North Korea's most recent missile launch is absolutely intolerable, saying North Korea must fully comply with the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions.

That second line there is an echo of a line from the joint statement put out by the U.S. and Japan after the two leaders, Prime Minister Abe and President Trump, had their first official meeting at the White House.

In that statement they urged North Korea not to make any further provocative actions or not to take any further actions and they talked about the need for it to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions. So you heard the prime minister echoing that call tonight.

He also said that during the summit with President Trump, Trump assured him that the United States will always come to Japan's defense and said that the president and he completely share the view that we are going to promote further cooperation between the two nations and also we are going to further reinforce our alliance.

After the prime minister spoke, President Trump took to the podium and delivered a very brief statement saying, "Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister. I just want everyone -- everybody to understand and fully know that the United Nations of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent. Thank you."

Now I can't stress enough that that is a statement that does not at all address what happened. It does not address the fact that North Korea launched this missile. It was a cautious statement, dare I say, a timid statement. Not the kind of language that we heard from candidate Trump or president-elect Trump. A clear signal that the White House is responding, very, very cautiously to this. Its first real national security test. Now barely -- not even a month in to the presidency.

So that is the statements we're getting so far from the White House and the Japanese prime minister in response to this latest provocation from North Korean. And I should mention this is something that North Korea likes to do. They like to test new administrations. They fired -- they fired off their second nuclear test early in President Obama's first term. And their third one, just a month into his second term. So this is not something that was not predictable.

In fact, U.S. intelligence picked up on movements in the past month or so that indicated this could be coming. And yet we get a very, very brief statement from President Trump. A bit of a longer one from Prime Minister Abe in this first response to a missile launch. Back to you.

HOWELL: For more analysis on North Korea, let's bring in Jim Walsh, a senior research associate at MIT, joining us now from Cambridge, Massachusetts, via Skype.


HOWELL: Jim, first of all, your reaction to what happened here?

JIM WALSH, SENIOR RESEARCH ASSOCIATE, MIT: Well, part of this is sort of set piece theater. You know, we're going to have the Japanese prime minister and the South Korea temporary president, and President Trump all come out and say this is unacceptable and this is terrible. And you know, we'll pursue tougher measures. And there'll probably be a U.N. resolution at some point.

But if we sort of step back from all of that which is, you know, set theater, as I say. What strikes me about it is North Koreans test, they test a missile, it's not a test of an ICBM, intercontinental ballistic missile, like they threatened to do. This strikes me, and based on what I know about friends having conversations with North Koreans as pushing a little bit. But not too much. And sort of waiting to see what President Trump will do. So I think we have a bit of tactical play here by the North Koreans.

HOWELL: So you describe this as set theater. North Korea pushing. Just to see how for North Korea can push and. We are hearing the statement from the president of the United States. That the U.S. supports Japan 100 percent. So this is really the president's first time to face such an international test.

WALSH: Yes, but you do remember there is a period before, after the election before inauguration, where I think quite on bad advice came out and said we're never going to allow, you know, North Korea to test. It sort of seemed to set up a red line. Then his staff sort of backed away from that. But I think it would be wiser for him not set up red lines that he cannot enforce.

[04:10:06] I think the North Koreans, frankly, you know, are somewhat -- like many countries in the world, they're not sure how to react here. So they're sort of pushing along a little built. So they're being provocative. As is classically North Korean. They're being provocative. But they're not being too provocative such that it would set off a crisis. And so I think -- I think both sides are feeling each other out. Neither side wants to put itself in a position where this automatically leads to some sort of ugly escalation.

HOWELL: Let's talk about South Korea. That nation, obviously in a tricky sport as well. Its president has been impeached waiting for the courts to make a final decision there. So all of this happening at a time where South Korea is in ate very different position than, it might have been in earlier years.

WALSH: Yes, I agree. And what makes -- I'm glad you asked that question. You are absolutely right to put your finger on that. Some folks had speculated that North Korea would not carry out this test until -- North Korea would not carry out the test until South Korea, had sort of chosen its new leader. The idea being North Korea didn't want to, you know, roil the waters in the middle of the South Koreans making their new choices.

But apparently so, what did we learn from this? One thing we learned from this was North Koreans, sort of cautious in a North Korean sort of way. Second thing we learned is that the North Koreans apparently felt it was more important to sort of press the U.S., test the U.S. in a modest way. And not really worry about what impact that would have on South Korea's elections.

So that tells me, they're more worried about the U.S. than South Korea. And you know, I agree with you. Any time you have, you know, leadership that's up for grabs, that's sort of a dicey moment. But I think the South Koreans aren't looking to start a war here. I think they're going to go through their own domestic political process. They'll select -- you know, they'll get some -- there will be an end to this nightmare that they have. And then everyone is going to sit down and try to figure out what happens now because we're in this brave new world.

New leadership in the U.S., new leadership in South Korea, and relatively young leadership in a provocative North Korea. That's when the game will really begin.

HOWELL: Let's push on with your description of set theater. We have talked about all the important pieces in this geopolitical puzzle. We've talked about the United States, we've talked about Japan and South Korea, we have not yet talked about China.


HOWELL: And we just saw a few days ago, somewhat of an about-face, quite fully an about-face in fact, the president of the United States saying that he will honor the "One China" policy.


HOWELL: Which is the only way as it's been stated by China for there to be a relationship between these two nations. So given that that has now happened, how important will China be when it comes to a provocative North Korea?

WALSH: You know, I've always said that there's no solving this problem without China. 90 percent of all of North Korea's trade is with China. As the rest of the world has imposed sanctions and tries to squeeze North Korea, that has only increased China's leverage because essentially China is the last country that has an economic relationship of significance with North Korea. So China is critical.

You're absolutely right to point to that "One China" sort of backing off that. You know, thank God. That -- why pick a fight that neither side wants to have over something that's been settled for decades? So now the question is, with that behind us, will the president of the United States and President Xi be able to find a way to find common ground on North Korea even if they are at odds on other issues, on the South China Sea or on trade. Can they find a way to pursue their mutual self-interest on North Korea?

You know, that's enough to question. I have no idea. But that will be the key question going forward. Because there is no solving this without China. That's just the bare reality.

HOWELL: Jim Walsh, thank you so much for your insight. We'll stay in touch with you.

WALSH: Thank you.

HOWELL: And of course we'll continue following the breaking news this hour. More on the North Korean missile launch. Also hundreds of people arrested in cities across the United States. Why immigrants, many families, are living in fear of a knock on the door.

NEWTON: Yes. And plus we'll see how the Mexican government is trying to reach out to its nationals on the other side of the border.



[04:18:40] HOWELL: Protesters showed up outside the White House on Saturday denouncing a wave of arrests by immigration officials. Look.

Authorities have arrested undocumented immigrants in 12 different states from coast to coast.

NEWTON: And now the latest raids have taken in more than 204 foreign nationals in the Midwest. Officials say most of the people they locked up had already been convicted of crimes.

We get more now from our Rafael Romo.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The detentions over the last week are in the hundreds and have been across the country especially in states with higher concentrations of immigrants. In California alone, officials say they detained 160 individuals. According to authorities 150 of the detainees had criminal histories and the rest were in deportation proceedings for other reasons.

Activists say the raids have terrorized immigrant populations and caused widespread fear in these and other states. But Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly says raids are in compliance with the law and not just random operations.


JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: First of all they're not rounding anyone up. The people that ICE apprehend are people who are illegal and then some. ICE is executing the law. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMO: A labor union representing a school district in Texas has published a flier that tells immigrants what to do in case immigration authorities come knocking on their doors.

[04:20:07] A union spokeswoman calls the raids a crisis and says providing this information is important to students and parents at the school district. A local official reacted with indignation to the raids.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have heard of several confirmed ICE actions in Austin. We are here to denounce those actions and to let the community know that we have their backs.


ROMO: Immigration and Customs Enforcement published a statement about the raids saying the following. "The rash of recent reports about purported ICE checkpoints and random sweeps are false, dangerous and irresponsible. These reports create panic and put communities and law enforcement personnel in an unnecessary danger. Individuals who falsely report such activities are doing a disservice to those they claim to support."

President Donald Trump made cracking down on illegal immigration a central focus of his presidential campaign.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.


HOWELL: Rafael, thank you so much.

Now whether it's meant to be intentional or not, the new administration is creating a great deal of anxiety among many innocent families, many people who came to the U.S. simply hoping to find a better life.

NEWTON: Yes. A lot of families are coping with a lot of stress right now. And Mexico's government is trying to help its nationals however it can.

Polo Sandoval shows us how they're actually reaching out.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You wouldn't know it if you drove by this Tucson, Arizona, building that bears the Mexican seal, but inside is a small army of call takers. This is more than just a phone bank. It's a clearinghouse for Mexicans run by the Mexican government. It's called the CIAM or the Center for Information and Assistance for Mexicans. It's the only one in the U.S. PATRICIA AHUMADA, CALL CENTER OPERATOR: We also explain all the

consular services that we offer.

SANDOVAL: These days, Patricia Ahumada says people are concerned about more than just basic services.

[03:25:03] AHUMADA: It can be really tough for us as well. Because every story, every call is another story. And I can have a call that can be about a passport, but I can also have a call saying that happened if my kids are U.S. citizens and I have to go back to Mexico.

RICARDO PINEDA ALBARRAN, CONSUL OF MEXICO, TUCSON, ARIZONA: The need is high. That's why we have around 40 people working over here.

SANDOVAL: Counsel General Ricardo Pineda who leads this team noticed a recent 100 percent increase in call traffic. The center received an average of 700 calls a day before Donald Trump was sworn in. Today nearly 1300, according to Pineda who thinks more of his fellow Mexicans want answers about President Trump's immigration orders. He says many of the calls come from undocumented Mexicans with the new fear of dealing with U.S. immigration authorities. They fear deportation.

ALBARRAN: What we are trying to do is referring over the communicate to professionals, to newly authorized attorneys, right here or in many locations around the U.S. that can provide information. We are doing that and we're going to continue to do that on a more intensive manner.

SANDOVAL: Pineda echoes a new message from his Foreign Ministry's office warning Mexican citizens in the U.S. to take precautions. The advice vice coming as hundreds of undocumented immigrants are being arrested in several states. The Mexican government foresees more severe immigration measures to be implemented with possible violations to constitutional precepts. Pineda says those concerns have prompted them to keep their lines open 24/7.

ALBARRAN: Call your consulate. Please come to the consulate. It's our duty to get along with you, to accompany you in any possible process.

SANDOVAL: With concerns about what the White House's next step will be it doesn't seem that the phones will stop ringing any time soon.

Polo Sandoval, CNN, Tucson, Arizona.


NEWTON: OK. So February, in the northeast, what does it do, George?

HOWELL: Well, it snows.

NEWTON: It does, indeed. And we've got that lovely storm called the nor'easter. I'm not sure if this one is technically a nor'easter, but meteorologist Julie Martin is going to tell us. I have a feeling that you're going to describe something that is like a bomb. I'm not sure I want to hear this.


JULIE MARTIN, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, technically, we call this bombogenesis in the meteorology world. Sounds pretty scare but I'll get to that in just a second.


[04:26:12] HOWELL: And they want more of that.


HOWELL: Julie, thank you so much.

Still ahead here as CNN NEWSROOM, we will have an update on the breaking news we're following out of North Korea. A missile launch there.

NEWTON: Yes. Plus, the president of Russia says he's ready to talk face-to-face with the president of the United States. We'll take a look at when and how.

HOWELL: NEWSROOM is live from Atlanta, Georgia, to our viewers across the United States and around the world this hour. Stay with us.


HOWELL: 4:29 on the East Coast.

[04:30:01] We are following breaking news this hour here on CNN. Welcome to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world. I'm George Howell.

NEWTON: And I'm Paula Newton. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. As we were saying, North Korea's test of a ballistic missile on Saturday was the latest of many in recent years but it was the first on U.S. president Donald Trump's watch. And it was done as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in a state visit to the United States.

HOWELL: The timing of this very interesting. The launch was believed to be either a medium range or an intermediate range missile. Mr. Abe and Mr. Trump were briefed on the situation at President Trump's home in Florida. And afterward they issued a joint statement. Let's listen.


ABE (Through Translator): North Korea's most recent missile launch is absolutely intolerable. North Korea must fully comply with the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions. During this summit meeting that I had with President Trump, he assured me that the United States will always with Japan 100 percent. And to demonstrate his determination as well as commitment, he is now here with me at this joint press conference. TRUMP: Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister. I just want

everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent. Thank you.


HOWELL: The U.S. president making that statement standing behind Japan. I want to explain this map that you see. So this missile traveled just over 300 miles or about 500 kilometers, which is represented by the number one line that you see there. North Korea does have missiles that can reach as far as the line three that you see. And it's striving for an intercontinental missile that can reach lines four or five. Those lines that could threaten the United States.

Let's bring in John Nilsson-Wright, the head of the Asia Program at Chatham House live in Paris this hour.

So, you know, just first of all talking about the fact that this happened at a time where the Japanese prime minister and the president of the United States are together, the timing of this, your response to that?

JOHN NILSSON-WRIGHT, HEAD OF ASIA PROGRAM, CHATHAM HOUSE: Well, I think this is straight out of the North Korean playbook. It's very common. Looking back to 2013 and 2009, with transitions and new presidents coming in, it is very common for North Koreans to want to do something to grab their attention. And this of course, as we have seen, has grabbed attention of countries in the region and of course of President Trump. But it's also consistent with a long-term strategy on the part of Pyongyang to develop their ballistic missile capabilities and also their nuclear capabilities. It's what the North would like to do, to put a nuclear device on a missile. So it threatens its neighbors.

The good news, if there is any good news, is that this test really in terms of the missile that was deployed, may have succeeded in the sense that it has captured that much attention, but it doesn't really represent a step-change in North Korea's missile capabilities. This is part of a long-term process the North Koreans wants to enhance its technical capabilities. But there's no doubt, because I think President Trump and as we heard just there from Prime Minister Abe, there's a lot of anxiety, a lot of worry about what this means over the long term.

NEWTON: Perhaps I want to pick up on that. We've been discussing the fact that this was not an intercontinental ballistic missile and as you said there is some positive news in that, and yet many people have been asking, what is the North Korean capability on this issue right now? I mean, some people are saying that what's open source we know about and they are working on this other kind of missile that perhaps could reach as far as the United States, but in terms of when you look at your sources, do you think they are hiding nuclear and missile technology from intelligence in the United States or South Korea?

NILSSON-WRIGHT: Well, they always want to maximize the impact of surprise. And the North Koreans of course are not going to openly disclose what they have. But I think the evidence so far suggests that they're a year or two or possibly longer away from getting to the stage where they can miniaturize nuclear weapons and deploy them effectively and accurately on a ballistic missile. Whether that, say, is a short-term, or medium-range or long-term range missile still remains to be seen.

But so far this is what they want to achieve. And I think the evidence so far suggests that they are not there yet. But of course with more of these tests and more time we will eventually see -- I think most people expect within the course of the next two or possibly three to four years get to that point. And that raises the question, what can the international community do effectively to slow down and ultimately reverse this process.

[04:35:02] HOWELL: You know, so you talk about the international community, and I want to push forward on that just the state of the alliances as they stand right now. The United States and its relationship with China, the U.S. and its relationship with South Korea. South Korea is in a different position. Its president has been impeached. They're waiting for the courts to make a decision on that. China is now in a better situation with the U.S. given that the president has acknowledged the "One China" policy. But, at the same time, we're seeing these relationships either reaffirmed or take new positions. How does all that play into handling North Korea?

NILSSON-WRIGHT: Well, again, the good news is, as we saw in the visit by Defense Secretary Mattis to the region, both Seoul and Tokyo, we have seen a reaffirmation of America's commitment to its traditional alliance. And that's going to be welcomed news both in South Korea and Japan. That has to be very important, as you rightly point out, there's a lot of uncertainty and instability politically on the ground in South Korea because of the impeachment.

The frontrunner at the moment could possibly take over from the embattled president, Park Geun-hye -- the rest of the politicians who's already suggested that his approach to North Korea might involve negotiations on a more moderate approach, if you like, which might conflict, might shuffling with the more hard-line approach from President Trump.

China in this context is as it's always been, in a sense the most critical player because China has the closest relationship economically and politically with North Korea. It is in a position to enforce sanctions if it wants to which would really inflict Syria's pain on the North Koreans in the way that might discourage them from proceeding along this provocative route.

So far, however, the Chinese have always been willing, if you like, the very final stage to go back to some of those sanctions. And many people in Washington are arguing that President Trump needs to introduce a much tougher set of sanctions that target not only North Korea but any third party, for example, any Chinese bank that seems to be dealing with the North Koreans.

NEWTON: Right. Right. NILSSON-WRIGHT: And of course if Washington does that, that will then

threaten the stability and the strength of the evolving U.S.-China relationship.

NEWTON: Yes. And as you say those proposals are making the rounds in Washington. It's interesting you brought up that perhaps South Korea may have a new policy of perhaps reaching out. Many experts are saying that this is what North Korea wants right now. That they are actually at a point where they might come to the table. I mean, what do you think, is that plausible?

NILSSON-WRIGHT: If something were offered that really met their demands, which will involve a peace treaty, full diplomatic recognition, as they often say unrealistically for obvious reasons, they will argue that they want all U.S. forces out of South Korea and Japan. And that's obviously a non-starter. No American president, particularly President Trump, given his public statements both before and since taking over as president, is going to entertain that sort of policy. We also got of course a Republican Congress that wants to see a tougher line towards North Korea.

Keeping the door open to some set of negotiations is one way forward, but it has to be toppled, I would argue, with much tougher sanctions and a willingness to work with America's allies and to also incentivize the Chinese to recognize that they need to bolster their rhetorical commitment to impose some pain on the North Koreans. So far, as I say, China and the dilemma and the challenge that the Americans need to find a way in which they can effectively shut off North Korea's opportunity to get currency and what's going to China's banks. Possibly other measures to deal with some 50,000 North Korean workers overseas, restricting their activities. Also raising the issue of human rights which is of course a very topical concern. And demonstrating that if the North Koreans are willing to come back and to proceed to talk about some sort of freeze, potentially a rollback of the programs, then they stand to gain more. I do like to see (INAUDIBLE).

HOWELL: It is 10:38 in the morning in Paris, France, where John Nilsson-Wright joins us live via Skype. John, thank you so much for your insight.

It's just so good, Paula, to get, you know, the perspective from different points around the world when a big story like this happens.

Let's now bring in Scott Lucas who also joining us via Skype from Birmingham, England. He is a professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham.

Scott, let's talk first of all about the president's response. This was not President Trump on Twitter. This was not what we saw during the campaign trail, the harsh rhetoric that we saw. Rather this was the president on stage with another world leader saying the U.S. supports Japan 100 percent. A very brief statement. Your thoughts to it?

SCOTT LUCAS, PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: Well, I think in one sense you can understand President Trump being very terse and showing one sentence until we know more exactly the significance of the North Korean test.

[04:40:02] At the same time, it was very, very brief. It wasn't the type of statement you might get from Barack Obama talking about possible diplomatic measures, talking more fully about the relationship with Asian countries, not just with Japan but also South Korea. I think that reflects the fact that Trump isn't actually on point over this issue.

I think the pragmatist in the White House including Defense Secretary Mattis have been the ones who have really tried to drive forward issues regarding Japan and China in the past couple of weeks as represented by Mattis' trip to the region. Trump in many senses is sort of a figure head on this issue and we need to be watching what the Defense Department, what the State Department say in the next day or two.

NEWTON: You've kind of indicated that he hasn't been briefed well enough on this issue, if I take you at a word. It's an incredibly complicated issue and you know, the other administration, eight years, and they still didn't really get to a resolution. At this point, Donald Trump has said, look, he doesn't think China is doing enough. Do you think he's hitting on a key issue there, though?

LUCAS: Well, I think it wasn't a question of China not doing enough, but Trump both as candidate and initially as president made very provocative statements. Remember the idea that China was raping the U.S. economy and that China always takes advantage of us? That isn't the type of rhetoric you want in this type of situation. So I think there's been a very conscious effort by the pragmatist, not on in Defense and State, but also within the White House, to make sure that we do not take an incident like the North Korean test and turn it into a confrontational Beijing. Especially given that President Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon has warmed up and indeed some would say has welcomed the prospect of a U.S.-Chinese confrontation.

HOWELL: Just talking about those alliances, and I'm reminded of what the former president Barack Obama indicated from the White House press podium saying that, you know, the sound bites -- statements make for good sound bites, and I'm paraphrasing this poorly I'm sure, but he said that reality has a way of asserting itself.

Is that what we're seeing with these alliance where -- you know, where there may have been some concern about instability, rather they are still together?

LUCAS: Absolutely right. I mean, slightly different from your previous guest who was talking about putting sanctions on the Chinese as well as North Korea. What you do not want at this case is where you align Beijing with Pyongyang on one side and the U.S., South Korea and Japan on the other. That's not a recipe for dealing with those very complex questions. And indeed it will just increase the temperature.

What you need right now is a coordinated approach amongst -- between the U.S., Japan, China and other countries in Asia-Pacific on how they're going to respond to this. And that's what I think we'll be happening behind the scenes away from the front line statement that we had last night from Prime Minister Abe and President Trump.

HOWELL: Scott Lucas live in Birmingham, England. Scott, thank you so much for being with us.

LUCAS: Thank you.

HOWELL: CNN NEWSROOM continues. Vladimir Putin wants to set a date for a long anticipated meeting with the president of the United States. Why the Russian leader says he's now ready to meet face-to- face. Stay with us.


[04:46:22] NEWTON: The Russian president says he's ready.

HOWELL: Sounds like a date.

NEWTON: We're going to figure this out. Vladimir Putin was answering a question about a possible meeting with U.S. president Donald Trump.

HOWELL: It's a much-anticipated relationship. Mr. Putin has reiterated he has hoped for a face-to-face conversation to try to restore U.S.-Russian relations. So far no date has been set. But there may be a place.

CNN's Clare Sebastian has more details for us from Moscow.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Two weeks since President Trump and Putin first spoke on the phone, the question of where and when they might meet in person is back in the headlines here in Moscow. At a press conference with President Putin in the Russian capital Friday, the Slovenian president offered his capital city Ljubljana as a potential location for their first meeting. This is what President Putin had to say in response.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (Through Translator): As for Ljubljana, and Slovenia as a whole, of course, it is a wonderful place for such talks. However, it depends not only on us but on a wide range of circumstances and day-to-day business.

If these meetings take place, we have nothing against Ljubljana. We've already held such meetings in Ljubljana. And I would like to thank in advance if there is such an opportunity. Mr. President spoke about that. I would like to thank Slovenia for its willingness to organize such a meeting.


SEBASTIAN: Now of course Slovenia might appeal to the U.S. side being the birthplace of first Lady Melania Trump. It's also the location of the first ever meeting that took place between then President Bush and President Putin back in 2001. President Putin also making the point, though, in that press conference Friday that while he is ready and willing to restore the U.S.-Russian relationship, he says they can't start dialogue in earnest until the U.S. side finalizes its team and decides who will be dealing with Russia on certain key issues.

Those comments echoing a source at the Russian Foreign Ministry speaking to CNN earlier this week and expressing some frustration at the lack of counterpart at the U.S. State Department, saying that they are trying to understand who is dealing with what.

Now as to when we might find out more about that first face-to-face meeting between Presidents Trump and Putin, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that he hopes to meet with his counterpart, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, at one of several high- level meetings set to take place in Germany at the end of next week. That meeting could pave the way for the first face-to-face contact between the two countries presidents.

Clare Sebastian, CNN, Moscow.


HOWELL: Clare, thank you so much.

The violence again on the streets of Paris Saturday over the alleged rape of a young man by police. More than 2,000 people were involved in the riots and four vehicles were set on fire. The protests began when four police officers were accused of beating the 22-year-old man and raping him with a baton. The Interior Ministry says all four have been charged with aggravated assault in the February 2nd incident. One of the officers has been charged with rape.

NEWTON: Switching gears here, next we'll take you where clowns go to pray. And you can bet, yes, plenty of one-liners in that sermon. Apparently we're going to explain after the break.



[04:53:37] NEWTON: OK. A church probably isn't high on the list of places that you think you're going to find a clown, but a whole group of them put on those red noses and were in the pews.

HOWELL: Oh, boy. And it was all to honor the life of a 19th century funny man.

Our Neil Curry joined the congregation at the London church for a special annual tribute.


NEIL CURRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A church art provides a quiet corner of solitude amid the craziness of London life. But all is not as it seems.

Clowns of all shapes and sizes are gathering here for a key date in their comical calendar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to stick the nose on very soon. That's his noise and he's excited to get that on.

CURRY: They're here to remember recently fallen funnyman and one of the most famous names in the history of hilarity.




CURRY: Joseph Grimaldi was a 19th century superstar who transformed the role and appearance of the clown. He delighted theater audiences across London with high profile fans such as Charles Dickens. Almost 200 years after his death, Grimaldi's service to silliness is marked by an annual church service in his name.

[04:55:02] A comical congregation of playful pilgrims pack the pews, donning the dress code of dramary (PH), colorful coats, hats and bow ties. This is a special clown's prayer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dear Lord, I thank you for calling me to share your precious gift of laughter.

CURRY: And candles are lit to remember those who have given their last giggle. But the chuckle-some nature of the occasion could barely be further from the so-called creepy clown phase which terrified people in the number of countries around Halloween last year. For the clown community it was no laughing matter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I lost three bookings right after. And he lost some as well. Right. And I was going out with no face on, no face, and going to do my work and children shows. They said, please don't come as a clown because my child will be frightened.

CURRY: Clowns at the service are refusing to let such memories wipe the smile from their faces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clowns are the catalyst to laughter. And, you know, as Charlie Chapman said, a day without laughter is a day wasted.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of my mottos is you see somebody without a smile, give them one of yours.

CURRY: A concluding cackle and another burst of bubbles. Joey Grimaldi's mirthful memory was maintained for yet another year.

Neil Curry, CNN, London.


HOWELL: How many clowns can you pack into a church?


NEWTON: It's so clear, but we don't have time to count.

HOWELL: Thanks for being with us. I'm George Howell.

NEWTON: And I'm Paula Newton. Our breaking news coverage continues for viewers in the United States and around the world with "NEW DAY." Stay tuned.