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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Washington Congressman Adam Smith; North Korea Missile Launch; Putin to Meet With Trump; U.S. & South Korea Hold Joint Ballistic Missile Drill. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 4, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Testing Trump? A disturbing new missile test by North Korea prompts the Trump administration to request an emergency United Nations meeting. The Kim Jong-un regime claims it now has a missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon that could hit the United States. How will the U.S. respond?
Heavy move. President Trump takes to Twitter, saying -- quote -- "Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense." He says he's already lost patience with Pyongyang. Is he now losing patience with Beijing as well?
First meeting -- new details tonight of President Trump's upcoming encounter with Russian President Vladimir Putin. With tension between Washington and Moscow rising, the two leaders are now just days away from their first face-to-face talks.
And closing in. U.S.-backed forces mark a key milestone in the fight against ISIS, as they try to drive terrorist forces from their self- proclaimed capital. As the ground war reaches a critical phase, CNN gets exclusive access to the American fighter pilots leading the air war overhead.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Brianna Keilar. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
KEILAR: We are following breaking news, escalating concern tonight over North Korea's latest missile test. This is apparently timed to coincide with America's Independence Day.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has just requested a closed-door emergency meeting of the Security Council to discuss this missile launch. U.S. military analysts now believe the rocket was a two-stage intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking Alaska.
North Korea's latest provocation is coming just days before President Trump's first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Both the White House and the Kremlin now confirm this is going to be a formal sit-down between the two leaders, signaling hopes of improved relations.
Also, President Trump just spoke to military families attending a Fourth of July picnic at the White House. He said being commander in chief is the greatest privilege and said -- quote -- "I will always have your back."
We are covering all of that and more this hour with our guests, including the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Adam Smith. Our correspondents and specialists are also standing by for us this hour.
And we are going to begin with North Korea's latest missile test.
CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr working this story for us.
Barbara, this may be the regime's most troubling launch yet.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It may well be, Brianna.
Based on intelligence gathered from U.S. spy satellites and other classified sensors, all of the intelligence is pointing towards North Korea likely launching its first intercontinental ballistic missile.
STARR (voice-over): These are the first images of the North Korean missile launch the U.S. never wanted to see. U.S. officials calculate this is likely a two-stage intercontinental ballistic missile, an ICBM, that could someday hit parts of the United States.
U.S. spy satellites for days had picked up imagery of a potential KN- 17 missile launch like this one launched in May, being readied. Now the latest assessment suggests the new launch was a more advanced missile that traveled farther than any previous missile test. The South Korean and U.S. military estimates the missile traveled more than 580 miles in 37 minutes.
Based on this, experts calculate the missile could have a maximum range of roughly 4,160 miles, long enough to reach all of Alaska, but not the rest of the U.S.
DAVID WRIGHT, CO-DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL SECURITY, UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS: You have to remember the missile technology has been around for a long time, so there are no particular secrets.
STARR: The new launch comes as North Korea also continues to pursue the development of a nuclear warhead.
ADM. HARRY HARRIS, COMMANDER, U.S. PACIFIC COMMAND: Combining nuclear warheads with ballistic missile technologies in the hands of Kim Jong- un is a recipe for disaster. I know there is some debate about the miniaturization advancements made by Pyongyang. But PACOM must be prepared to fight tonight. So, I must take him at his word. I must assume that his claims are true.
STARR: Top officials from the State Department, the Pentagon and the White House held meetings throughout the July 4 holiday. Administration officials emphasizing diplomacy, but with tensions rising, everything is on the table.
WRIGHT: I think essentially everyone agrees, and I believe the Trump administration agrees as well, that there are no good military options. If you take the military option off the table, you come back to sanctions. We have seen in the past it's not going to solve the problem.
STARR: The Russian and Chinese presidents offering up another solution at their meeting in Moscow, announcing they will work together to freeze the North Korean program, but demanding a stop to U.S.-South Korean military exercises and an end to the THAAD missile defense deployment to South Korea, both nonstarters for the U.S.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): There is, of course, the whole question of the Korean Peninsula, the building of peace and stability. It is very important to push forward our joint initiative on settling the Korean problem with the view of immediately freezing the ballistic missile strikes and also dealing with the U.S. deployment of weapons in South Korea.
STARR: Now, U.S. commanders recently had updated military options for North Korea, specifically so they could offer the president rapid- response options if he wanted them.
Officials are telling us tonight, don't look for any escalation, but what could happen is in the coming days and weeks there could be an increased U.S. military presence on the peninsula in South Korea -- Brianna.
KEILAR: All right, we will see if they do mobilize. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us on this Fourth, thank you so much.
North Korea is just one of the pressing problems that President Trump is going to discuss as he meets with world leaders at the G20 summit this week. The most closely watched encounter, though, is going to be his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
And CNN's Ryan Nobles is following this for us at the White House.
You're learning some details about this meeting. What can you tell us, Ryan?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, there's no doubt that there was already going to be quite a bit of a big spotlight on this meeting between President Putin and President Trump.
It is going to take on an even bigger public focus because both sides have agreed to make it a formal bilateral event, which could be a sign that both sides are open to boosting diplomatic ties.
NOBLES (voice-over): As Donald Trump prepares for the second overseas trip of his presidency, rising tensions around the globe are raising the stakes for his meetings with world leaders at the G20 summit in Germany, from yet another missile launch by North Korea, to ongoing conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, and the growing international threat from ISIS and terrorism.
But nothing will likely get as much attention as Trump's face-to-face meeting Friday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, an encounter that will now be a formal bilateral discussion, the first between the two countries' presidents in nearly two years.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability, because we have a horrible relationship with Russia.
NOBLES: The Trump administration is hopeful for a breakthrough.
H.R. MCMASTER, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Our relationship with Russia is not different than any other country in terms of U.S. communicating to them really what our concerns are, where we see problems in the relationship, but also opportunities.
NOBLES: The meeting comes amid an ongoing special counsel investigation and multiple congressional probes into Russia's meddling in the U.S. election, though it's not clear if the issue will be raised when the leaders meet.
Instead, administration officials tell CNN the president plans to focus the time on Syria and Ukraine. Trump will also meet with China's President Xi Jinping, a discussion that will be critical after North Korea's latest missile test and recent U.S. sanctions against a Chinese bank for allegedly aiding North Korea.
TRUMP: The era of strategic partition with the North Korean regime has failed. Many years, and it has failed. And, frankly, that patience is over.
NOBLES: Trump signaled his impatience with the regime during a meeting with South Korea's leader a week ago. Last night on Twitter, he went a step further, specifically calling on the leaders in the region to do more, writing -- quote -- "North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all."
This as Trump delivers a promise to veterans gathered at the White House for Independence Day.
TRUMP: I will always have you back. I will always, under all circumstances.
(END VIDEOTAPE) NOBLES: And this developing situation with North Korea comes on the heels of the death of American student Otto Warmbier, who was imprisoned by the North Koreans for more than a year.
Of course, this also is a stark reminder of President Obama's warning for President Trump when they met just before he was inaugurated that North Korea would be among his biggest challenges -- Brianna?
KEILAR: Ryan Nobles at the White House, thank you.
I want to bring in now our military and diplomatic analyst retired Rear Admiral John Kirby. You may recognize him as the former Pentagon and State Department spokesman from the Obama administration.
And, Admiral, whenever we see an action by North Korea, it's taken very seriously. This, though, is a different level. Underscore that for us.
JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: It is a very significant step forward in their program. They have been long building to getting an ICBM capability. And this obviously looks like they have successfully tested it.
I suspect there will still be other steps, that they're still learning from this, and try to improve it a little bit. Of course, what we don't know right now and what most analysts think is they can't weaponize this with a new warhead just yet, but that is certainly something that they will be advancing to.
Look, Brianna, they see this capability as the ultimate bargaining chip for them and to insure, an insurance policy for the survival of the regime. That's what they really want here. That's why it's been so hard to dissuade them to change their calculus on this particular program.
KEILAR: Having worked at the Pentagon, what are folks there looking at as potential military options? There aren't a lot of them, right?
KIRBY: No, and the closer they get -- the farther along their program gets, the harder it is to develop sound military options.
Look, nobody wants open war on the peninsula. That's in nobody's best interest. That said, at the extreme end of military options, obviously, the Defense Department has to be ready for what we call kinetic activity, for actual combat. And that's why these exercises that we do in the Republic of Korea are so important to keep up that readiness.
But there is also a whole range of lower-end options that the military is most likely looking at tonight in answer to whatever the commander in chief might want to do. For instance, you could fly a bomber over the peninsula. President Obama did that a couple of times. President Trump just did that recently as well. You could put more naval assets in and around the peninsula if you wanted to. You could certainly change the force posture on the ground. I also
think that they are going to be looking at force posture in the region. We are all focused on the peninsula, as we should, but we need to remember that with this capability, he can now endanger more people in the region. So, I think one of the things the Pentagon is looking at today, what do we need to do in terms of regional posture to make sure we're ready?
The other thing I would say is -- and sorry to keep talking more, but the THAAD deployment is really important. And I think we have added a lot of missile defense capabilities in that part of the Asia-Pacific. I think they are probably going to be looking at that as well.
KEILAR: So China and Russia come to this joint statement, and they say they don't want to see that THAAD missile defense system there.
KEILAR: They don't want to see these joint exercises that you're talking about between South Korea and the U.S. Those are total nonstarters. The U.S. isn't going to go along with that. What is this joint statement really mean, in effect?
KIRBY: I don't think it really means anything, in effect.
I think this is a chance for Russia and China sitting down together to find a way to sort of tweak everybody's nose on this. I really -- if you read that statement, there is nothing in there that I think the international community would sign up to, except the very broad statements about wanting to see peace and stability in the region on the peninsula.
Everybody can sign up to that. But the great irony is here that neither of those two countries has done anything to try to bring that about from a diplomatic perspective or from an economic perspective. And I'm speaking mostly of China here. We have the toughest regime sanctions in place on North Korea in 20 years, and still the Chinese won't fully implement those sanctions.
They have the most influence over Pyongyang and they have proven -- simply refused to be willing to actually use that influence.
KEILAR: We actually just got a new statement in from the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.
Actually, my producer has just thrown it up in the prompter. Let me read it to you.
It says this, in part: "Global action is required to stop a global threat. Any country that hosts North Korean guest workers, provides any economic or military benefits or fails to fully implement U.N. Security Council resolutions is aiding and abetting a dangerous regime. All nations should publicly demonstrate to North Korea that there are consequences to their pursuit of nuclear weapons."
It says -- Rex Tillerson goes on to say: "We intend to brick North Korea's provocative action before the U.N. Security Council and enact stronger measures to hold the DPRK," which is North Korea, "accountable."
What is your reaction to that, especially that part where he's saying that if you house guest workers, which we know a number of nations do, right? What's his message here?
KIRBY: They do. This is something we dealt with under the Obama administration, was trying to put sanctions on places where these North Korean workers are able to function, because that money goes right back to the regime.
I'm not really surprised by what I heard in that statement. It certainly is ratcheting up the tension. It is using the statecraft to do it. They are obviously using the U.N. Security Council as the forum now to make -- to ratchet up pressure from an international perspective.
But, yes, the aide workers, that's a problem. That is a source of revenue. It is something that President Obama tried to deal with as well. This certainly makes it -- I think takes it up a notch in terms of the threat of people complying with this. But it's very, to me, a predictable statement.
KEILAR: All right, predictable, you say.
All right, John Kirby, thank you so much for the insight.
I want to get more now on all of this with Congressman Adam Smith of Washington. He's the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
Congressman, thank you so much for joining us on this Fourth. It's such an important day as we see this missile launch by North Korea.
I think you just heard that, the statement in part from the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, where he is saying that there's global action that is required to stop the threat. "Any country that hosts North Korean guest workers, provides economic or military benefits or fails to fully implement Security Council resolutions is aiding and abetting a dangerous regime."
He's promising to take action there, says the U.S. is going to take action.
Does this really have teeth in it? Is this something that is going to really put pressure on North Korea?
REP. ADAM SMITH (D), WASHINGTON: No. No is the answer to your question.
The threat from North Korea, regrettably, is not going to be removed. And if there is an idea floating around out there for how we can remove that threat, I'm open to it. But we have been circling around this discussion of what we want China to do and what we want sanctions to do and all these other different pieces.
The bottom line is, what we need against North Korea, we need to put the best economic sanctions we can. I think it's perfectly appropriate for the secretary of state to try to put pressure on other nations to do the same. But the most important thing we need is a credible military deterrent, so that whatever North Korea does in terms of building a missile, they know that if they act against South Korea or against Japan or against us, we will obliterate them.
That's why THAAD is important. That is why our alliance with South Korea and Japan is important, to have that credible military force, because what's been proven -- and all of the options have been discussed with your previous guests -- is that North Korea is going to do it. They want to build nuclear weapons. They want to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile.
And short of an all-out war on the Korean Peninsula, we don't really have an option for stopping them. Now, everybody comes back to China. And I thought China and Russia's statement was spectacularly disingenuous. Neither one of them is doing a darn thing to stop North Korea. And they want to use it as an excuse to push us out of the region.
What we have to make clear to them is it's going to have the exact opposite effect. Once North Korea is able to threaten us and even now, as they threaten our allies, we have to be in there to protect our own interests. China's not acting against North Korea. And the reason they're not acting against North Korea is, they don't want to cut off North Korea's economic aid. They don't want North Korea to collapse because, they don't want millions of North Korean refugees pouring across their border.
They're not happy that North Korea is causing such instability in the region, but the alternative of them trying to crush the regime somehow is something they're not willing to do, and they haven't been willing to do it through four administrations. So, we need a credible military deterrent, and that is our only option.
KEILAR: Getting to that point, it just sort of underscores what a serious situation we're dealing with there.
KEILAR: But you said it's been four administrations in the making. This didn't happen overnight, even though, as we see overnight, there is this -- there is a new alarm because of just how serious this is. But it didn't happen overnight.
So, where does the responsibility for letting North Korea get to this point to developing an ICBM that could reach Alaska, who bears that responsibility?
SMITH: Yes, I'm not -- I'm not a historian. I'm a policy-maker.
And you can argue that 1,000 different ways. Personally, it seems to me like North Korea was bound and determined to go down this path no matter what we did. Under both the Clinton and the George W. Bush administrations, deals were made that provided North Korea with some economic assistance and some other assistance in developing peaceful nuclear facilities.
And you could argue that that was a mistake. But if we hadn't done that, North Korea would have just kept plodding away anyway and tried to develop a nuclear weapon.
And I think one of your earlier guests said it best. This is all about ensuring regime survival. They feel -- and they have looked at Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya, and they feel that unless they have a nuclear weapon and a credible deterrent of their own, that their regime is in jeopardy.
So, all the economic sanctions, all that needs to be done. But understand what I'm saying here. As you have discussed, there is not a good military option.
SMITH: Thinking that we can preemptively go in there and somehow take out their capabilities, whatever we do leads to a massive war in the Korean Peninsula.
KEILAR: And it seems as if, right now, the military -- go on.
SMITH: The military option is to have a credible deterrent.
Whatever North Korea may develop, they can hurt us. They can severely damage South Korea. They can severely damage Japan. We can obliterate them.
KEILAR: OK. So--
SMITH: And we will if they step across a line and actually use these weapons against us or any of our allies.
KEILAR: We see you're joining us obviously from Seattle. You're there in Washington state.
KEILAR: And when we look at -- let's take a look at this map, right? This is the reach of this--
SMITH: I can't see it now, but I have seen it before. I have seen it. I know what it looks like.
KEILAR: This is cutting right in between -- cutting through Canada right in between Alaska and Washington state, where you are. SMITH: Yes.
KEILAR: This is something that, as the progress marches on with North Korea, I mean, your state is right there. This is where--
KEILAR: Is this a game-changer, where people there in your state start to say, this is a different era, this is a different age, I feel very endangered?
SMITH: Well, some may say that. But, look, this has been coming for a long time. We have known that this is what North Korea has been building towards.
And, as you mentioned, they haven't gotten there yet. I mean, they tested one two-stage rocket with the potential for reaching this far. It's a lot more complicated putting a nuclear warhead on it.
But, as I have said, I think we have to prepare ourselves for the reality that they're going to get there. And as one of your other guests said, missile technology at the end of the day isn't that complicated. If they put enough time and money into it, they can figure it out.
But we need our THAAD system in the region. We need a system to give us a shot at shooting down that missile if they decide to launch it. And then we also need a clear diplomatic policy that we will destroy them.
And the only other thing that we need to do, as I said at the outset, with Russia and China, is said, stop screwing around, all right? If you guys really want us to be less involved in the region, then you have got to figure out a way to control North Korea.
Now, I don't think they're going to do that. But that means that we have to stay active in the region. And it also means that our alliances are very important. Anything that the president has said in the past, he's questioned the U.S. role as a policeman in the world, why are we so spending so much money in South Korea and Japan?
And, truthfully, both South Korea and Japan give us an enormous amount of money to provide that military security. We need now more than ever to make it clear that we stand with our allies against the potential aggression of North Korea and against their reckless behavior.
KEILAR: And that's part of what he's going to be he's going to be -- he's going to be having meetings with those countries here at the G20.
KEILAR: We have much more to talk about, including what may be the most important meeting after a quick break, that President Trump is going to have in Germany, his first one-on-one with Vladimir Putin. We will have more with Congressman Adam Smith in just a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KEILAR: Our breaking news, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just issued a new statement strongly condemning North Korea's latest ballistic missile tests and calling for global action to address what he calls a global threat.
The Trump administration is asking for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting on North Korea. That is likely to take place tomorrow, the same day that President Trump leaves for Europe and this big meeting that he has with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Germany.
We now know that their first face-to-face encounter is going to be a formal sit-down, not just an informal pull-aside.
And we're going to talk more about that now with Congressman Adam Smith of Washington back with us now. He's the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
We know, Congressman, that the president has requested of his staff to give him some options that he can have at his disposal when he goes into this meeting, and part of that is possible concessions. These facilities, these compounds that were taken away from the Russians by the Obama administration sanctions, what kind of message does it send that the Trump administration is preparing what are really possible carrots for Russia?
SMITH: A very bad one.
Putin takes advantage of weakness, and it's very ironic that for someone with as much bluster as Donald Trump throws around every day, certainly, I guess -- I guess I wish he treated Vladimir Putin more like he treats CNN, was more willing to stand up to a world leader who is threatening democracy and undermining countries all across the globe, because it's not just the U.S. elections that the Russians have hacked into and influenced and manipulated.
They have been doing it for quite some time. They have run disinformation campaigns. They use very low-cost options, cyber- attacks, disinformation. They don't have a very strong military. But what they do have is, they have decided to use these lower-cost technology options to influence things.
And it is very clear what Putin is trying to do. He's trying to make the world safe for autocratic dictatorships. That's what he believes in. That's what he wants to keep in Russia and that's what he wants to spread. And he wants to undermine liberal democracy every place he can.
And the only realistic option for us is to counter that. And to the extent that we let Putin get away with it, he's going to keep doing it. It's just like in the Ukraine. We have not given Ukraine the level of support I think that we should have to raise the cost for Putin's interference there.
We need to up our efforts to counter their counterinformation campaigns. We need to be very clear what Putin is doing is unacceptable. It borders on an act of war, the way they have been treating us. And to offer concessions is simply going to encourage him to continue. We need to push back.
KEILAR: And this is going to be a very interesting interaction, whether you are on the President Trump's side or you are not, especially in light of something that he said about Vladimir Putin back in February. Here's what it was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Do you respect Putin?
TRUMP: I do respect him.
TRUMP: Well, I respect a lot of people. But that doesn't mean I'm going to get along with him. He's a leader of his country. I say it's better to get along with Russia than not. And if Russia helps us in the fight against ISIS, which is a major fight, and Islamic terrorism all over the world--
TRUMP: -- major fight, that's a good thing. Will I get along with him? I have no idea.
QUESTION: He's a killer, though. Putin's a killer.
TRUMP: There are a lot of killers. Got a lot of killers. What, you think our country's so innocent? You think our country's so innocent?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Now, that is an alarming characterization for Republicans and for Democrats.
KEILAR: So, when the president meets with Vladimir Putin, how does he need to change his tune in defending American values?
SMITH: Well, he needs to understand what's going on here.
I mean, first of all, Putin isn't helping us at all in the fight against ISIS. In fact, he's inflaming it by backing Assad and Syria and by propping up Assad and making sure that he stays in power.
And when you look at what the Russian forces are doing in Syria, they are bombing the people
[18:30:10] And when you look at what the Russian forces are doing in Syria, they are bombing the people who are not ISIS. Their entire campaign has been focused on antiregime forces that aren't ISIS; because for Putin, as long as ISIS remains viable, as long as chaos reigns in the Middle East, that sends refugees up into Europe and helps potentially destabilize Europe.
And that Trump doesn't understand this is a major, major problem in his understanding of Vladimir Putin and what he is trying to do and how he's trying to do things.
Now, look, it would be great if we could get along with Russia. And back in the post-Cold War world, I think we all envisioned a world where Russia and the United States could work together. I won't walk through the history of how that didn't happen. CNN actually did a very good outline of how Putin came to be and why Russia came to think that it was a zero-sum game, once again; that what was good for them -- or sorry, what was good for us couldn't be good for them.
If we can get back to that place, that's great. But that's not where we are right now. Putin has no interest in that. He simply wishes to manipulate us to further his agenda, and his agenda is to destabilize western democracies and to destabilize our interests.
And I worry greatly that President Trump -- he has -- the only time that President Trump would acknowledge that Russia might have had something to do with hacking into our election is when President Trump decided that he could blame it on President Obama. All of a sudden, after six months of ignoring the question, calling it fake news, then all of a sudden, it dawned on him that it happened during the Obama administration, so he could say, "Well, look, this was Obama's fault." It's like, well, what was Obama's fault, since you've been denying it even happened?
So, the Trump administration needs to understand Russia and start to counter it instead of worrying about the perception of Russia having interfered in the election in a way that helped President Trump.
The issue for most of us isn't, you know, whether or not there was collusion -- they can look at all that. The issue is that a foreign power stepped into our election and interfered with it, and they did the same thing in England. They've done the same thing throughout Europe. What are we doing to counter that? What is the Trump administration's strategy for countering all of this Russian aggression? They don't have one. Except to the extent to shrug and go, "Well, you know, I don't think it's such a big deal." It's a huge deal.
KEILAR: It is -- no, it is a big deal. There's bipartisan support of that, for sure.
SMITH: Yes, there is.
KEILAR: Congressman Adam Smith, thank you so much. And a wonderful Independence Day to you, sir. Thank you for spending part of it with us.
SMITH: To you as well. Thank you. KEILAR: And we have some breaking news next. The Trump
administration is calling for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council as North Korea launches a missile believed to be capable of striking the U.S.
[18:36:37] KEILAR: The breaking news tonight, the U.S. is requesting an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council in response to North Korea's test of a missile that U.S. experts believe could hit Alaska.
All of this is coming as the president prepares for a critical overseas trip which includes his first meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin. CNN senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski is joining us now on this story.
So, Michelle, this meeting, it's actually been upgraded from a more informal meeting.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And the secretary of state has just put out a statement, first of all, on North Korea's launch of this intercontinental ballistic missile. And, you know, it was just three months ago he put out a statement saying the U.S. has spoken enough on North Korea.
But this clearly changes things; and his statement reads, in part, "Global action is required to stop a global threat. Any country that hosts North Korean guest workers, provides any economic or military benefits, or fails to fully implement U.N. Security Council resolutions is aiding and abetting a dangerous regime. All nations should publicly demonstrate to North Korea that there are consequences to their pursuit of nuclear weapons. We intend to bring North Korea's provocative action before the U.N. Security Council and enact stronger measures to hold the DPRK accountable."
So, clearly, there is a message to China in there. And this is made all the more interesting, because today the Chinese president met with Vladimir Putin. They put out this joint statement that sounded a lot like it was schooling the U.S. on how to deal with this issue. And this comes, of course, as President Trump is preparing for his first and potentially pivotal face-to-face meeting with Putin.
KOSINSKI (voice-over): President Trump will meet Vladimir Putin face to face on Friday while they're in Germany for the G-20 summit. It could have been a simple pull-aside meeting, a short chat, but the Russians have been wanting more. And now Trump agrees, it's time.
The last time the U.S. met this way with Putin was two years ago, and the last time Obama spoke to Putin in person was a blunt warning that it better stop meddling in U.S. politics.
Trump has had plenty to say about the Russian president. TRUMP: If he says great things about me, I'm going to say great
things about him. I've already said he is really very much of a leader.
If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability.
I hope we have a fantastic relationship.
KOSINSKI: But the relationship has been anything but fantastic. Sanctions on Russia have not loosened, nor has its hold on Crimea. Trump bombed a Syrian air field after President Assad's forces, still supported by Russia, attacked citizens with sarin gas.
Now both Trump and Putin are looking for some common ground, at least in fighting ISIS.
REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: There's a lot to talk about, and Russia is an adversary of the United States. And they should talk about Ukraine. They should talk about Syria. The president should find the opportunity to speak about NATO. He should speak about the activity of Russian meddling in the United States election, as well as other elections abroad.
KOSINSKI: For now, though, the White House says there is no specific agenda, which worries some, even within Trump's own national security team, over his potential for distraction and distaste for extensive preparation. Concerns that Putin will steer the ship, that Trump may not even broach the subject of Russia's cyberattacks on American democracy.
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, FORMER NSA OFFICIAL: The United States needs to arrive in Hamburg and send a clear message that it will not tolerate direct attacks on U.S. soil against the United States. And also send a message that the United States stands with its allies. It's really important for U.S. credibility that President Trump makes all those things clear.
KOSINSKI: At Trump's request, the White House has been preparing options of things to offer Russia in exchange for cooperation, or a change in Russia's behavior, possibly some sanctions relief or the return of Russian diplomatic properties in the U.S. seized at the end of the Obama administration. Russia has repeatedly threatened retaliation if those aren't returned.
But in the meantime, today Putin met with Chinese President Xi and talked up the two of them working together on the North Korea threat, calling for dialogue and a change in U.S. behavior on the issue. This as skeptical European allies and others, stunned over some of Trump's statements and moves, including the U.S.'s pull out from the Paris climate deal, increasingly speak of America as turning inward, the need for others to take the lead.
CHRYSTIA FREELAND, CANADIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course.
KOSINSKI: You can just imagine the attentions that's going to be on this meeting. What are the photos that come out? What is the body language and the handshake like? What does each side then say about the meeting, and how do those accounts differ?
But you know, even before President Trump meets with Putin, he's set to deliver this big speech in Warsaw. He's going to talk about NATO. So, the world is going to be watching how strong a message is that for NATO allies and common defense to counter Russia's influence, because remember, the last time he talked about NATO at NATO headquarters, his words were disappointing, to say the least, to many of those allies -- Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. Michelle Kosinski, thank you so much for that.
I want to dig deeper on all of this with our experts and our analysts. We have -- we have Karoun Demirjian, congressional reporter for "The Washington Post" joining our Phil Mudd, Ryan Lizza, and Caitlyn Collins, as well.
So, I'm intrigued, Phil, by this tweet that the president sent out where he was talking about the launch: "North Korea just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all."
But going into this summit, isn't it important to assure South Korea and Japan that they have the backing of the U.S., not that they're the ones who are going to get fed up with this and somehow do something that they don't even have the military capability to do?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Look, they don't have the military capability. Let's do a contrast here. If you see Syrian use of chemical weapons, you can use American missiles, as the president has authorized, and the consequences for the U.S. are minimal. The Syrians can't do anything.
Here's the bottom line in this case for a president who struggles with patience. If you issue an ultimatum to the Chinese, the Japanese, the South Koreans about what the North Koreas have done in terms of missile launches, the question is what are you going to do about it? Are you going to strike them? Are you going to isolate them, as we're suggesting, with economic sanctions, which is what I think -- where the Trump administration is going?
The president may be realizing, for a man who really likes to move fast, that his options in this world are very limited. There's not much you can do, short of military action. Maybe economic isolation, maybe squeezing the Chinese. But they're going to say, as we've seen, "Slow down. We ain't moving that fast."
KEILAR: All right. We just got a statement, actually, from Army public affairs office. Are we -- are we going ahead with this? OK, right. I want to bring in Barbara Starr. She's at the Pentagon.
We've been wondering, Barbara, what type of response there would be from the U.S., from South Korea. Now we may have our answer. What's going on?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna.
Well, it's early morning now in South Korea, and we are getting statements from the Pentagon and from the Army out there.
They have just conducted an exercise, if you will, between the U.S. Army and the South Korean Army, and we want to show this video. This is a missile that they are firing into South Korean territorial waters off their eastern coast. This is called the ATACMS. It's an advanced Army missile. And it's designed, as we bring up that video right there, to show a response.
This is a deep-strike weapon. Precision, all-weather, aimed at being able to prosecute targets in North Korea, if it came to that. You could fire it from South Korea into -- or targets in North Korea. It's -- it's designed to be very time sensitive, all-weather. You could go against fixed targets. You could potentially even try and go against targets with some mobility. But it's more about the message that this is sending.
[18:45:01] This is the U.S. and the South Koreans trying to send a visible message North. We have weapons. If you attack, if you have another provocation, we could prosecute your -- we could go against your targets.
Let's be clear: This is not aimed at going against North Korean ballistic missiles, but it could potentially maybe go against launch site, fixed targets that are devoted to the missile program to the nuclear weapons program potentially. Not the missile launches themselves. But this is not something we've seen before.
Normally, when the U.S. tries to have a show of force, if you will, they'll fly aircraft over South Korea and make sure that the world sees that video. This video this time, a bit different.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And I want you to take us through this video. As -- just tell us what we are seeing here for the uninitiated, especially as you say this isn't something that you normally see.
STARR: Right. Well, let me be clear: This is a very typical weapon that the Army has used for many, many years in prosecuting conflicts in the Middle East, Iraq, and that.
But as we continue to play it and you saw that launch there, this is a land-based system. It is mobile. They can move it around. It comes off a mobile launcher. Heavy duty, it takes awhile to get it out there and set up.
But you can see the truck, essentially the launch vehicle there and the missiles coming off the vehicle. I think some of your other guests probably know more about it than me, but it's in a so-called pod. In other words, they can launch multiple missiles at the same time very quickly to go against multiple targets, heavy fire power.
So, you see there, again, this is being fired early morning, first flight, South Korea, we are told. This is the video we've been handed, off the east coast of South Korea, very carefully into South Korean territorial waters. So, it's all legal under international law.
But the message, of course, is headed north across the DMZ, to Pyongyang, because the concern always is that North Korea has artillery, other weapons pointed directly at the South. It has these missile launch sites. It has this weapons program. So, this shows an additional capability.
So, why is this so important? Because you can launch from inside South Korea. The problem with airstrikes is you would have to cross most likely into North Korean air space, not something the U.S. wants to do. And tomahawk missiles launched from submarines, launched from ships, they could do it some day, but that's a problematic situation for some of the targets you might be going after in North Korea.
KEILAR: All right. Barbara Starr, stand by for us there at the Pentagon as we have this developing here, what appears to be the U.S. and South Korea response to North Korea's launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. The U.S. and South Korea holding a joint ballistic missile drill.
Karoun Demirjian, you used to work in the Moscow bureau for "The Washington Post" before being a congressional reporter for "The Post". And one of the things we saw in this joint agreement from Russia and from China was they said, hey, U.S., we don't want you doing this. We don't want you doing joint military drills and here just a matter of hours later, we're seeing one.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. It's definitely a sign that the United States is not listening to this little warning from Russia and China.
Russia and China have a different approach of dealing with North Korea. They deal with North Korea more closely than we do. We have basically isolated North Korea entirely. Russia and China have not to the same extent. It is also closer to their neighborhood and so, they are more concerned potentially about, you know, the fallout of what's going to happen if something does end up turning to a military conflict.
In the same way in which South Korea and Japan are concerned if we take this step. It is important to see that that test did happen in lockstep with the South Koreans and that that is all being planned jointly. But you are potentially seeing here an opportunity for there to be a splintering around the very coalition that needs to hang together if anything actually is going to be done about North Korean that is not going to potentially lead to having to do these things in less of a just show man way and more of a actual fight.
KEILAR: Let's get back down to the Pentagon. We have actually more information from Barbara Starr.
What can you tell us?
STARR: Well, Brianna, what we're also being told and reminded of is that since 2003, actually, the U.S. military has fired about 100 of these missiles, prosecuting the war in Iraq over the years. And it's interesting to note. Most of these missiles have been fired against air defense targets, so radars that might protect North Korean air space and command and control node.
So, what this missile system can do -- and it is part of the message here -- is you could clear out air space.
[18:50:05] You could clear out North Korean air defenses. You could -- you could attack their command and control, their essential ability to direct their own military force. You can take out some of those targets, and that can begin to clear the way in a conflict for other heavier weapons to come in. You can't put U.S. aircraft into North Korean air space unless you clear out and attack and destroy their air defense network.
Let's be clear: This is a drill. This is an exercise. We are looking at a message being sent north because at the same time, we are also being told that the Trump administration has no intention, we are told tonight, of escalating the situation, does not want to get into a shooting war with North Korea.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis has been clear his view is that would be disastrous for the Asia Pacific region. But it is very interesting that they chose this missile, this system to show the world tonight that they do have a capability to affect the North Korean military inside their own borders.
KEILAR: All right. Let's get -- thank you for that, Barbara.
I do want to bring in John Kirby, who is one of our analysts and used to be the spokesperson for the Pentagon under the Obama administration.
OK. So, you're looking at this reaction there.
KEILAR: And I don't know if you heard Congressman Adam Smith who was on a short time ago and he said, look, the message from the U.S. to North Korea is we will obliterate you if you try this, right? It's one thing to have this intercontinental ballistic missile. It's one thing to have these nuclear capabilities. If you actually use them other than just sort of having them as a threat, that's it. We're going to end you.
When you look at this drill, what's the message?
KIRBY: The message from this drill clearly is one of showing our ability, our deterrence and our offensive, potentially offensive military capabilities on the peninsula. A couple of things that I noted just going through this release and looking at the video.
First of all, this was a joint exercise. That's not unimportant for people to remember. This was done with our Republic of Korea counterparts there, this exercise.
Number two, it's a mobile system. Barb's right. It is a precision strike capability, which sends a strong message about our ability to reach into the North if we need to. But it's also mobile.
And you can see the launchers are on trucks. So, they're moving around. That also gives us some unpredictability, if you will, and should send a strong message to Pyongyang that we can be just as quick firing back if we have to.
This is -- this is about what you might expect given what happened today, that the military would do something visible, something overt. It wasn't by accident that the military released this video very quickly with the press release to make it clear that we take our alliance commitments very, very seriously.
KEILAR: With video. That's no accident either. There you go.
KIRBY: That was no accident either.
KIRBY: This is all very designed. And also, Brianna, note it came after the statement by Secretary Tillerson. This is in keeping with Secretary Mattis' desire that the State Department and diplomacy take the lead always.
KEILAR: Quick one-two there.
All right. Ryan Lizza, as you are looking at this -- North Korea launches what very much appears to be an intercontinental ballistic missile. It seems like it's just a matter of time until that has nuclear capability. It appears it doesn't yet. But it just seems that that's going -- I mean, that's just going to happen.
Is this a critical moment for Donald Trump as commander-in-chief?
RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: It is. I mean, this is the issue, remember, that President Obama in their first and only meeting as -- during the transition, Obama told him this is the issue that will seize more of your time and attention than you realized. You didn't talk about it on the campaign trail, none of the candidates did, but this is the big one.
And, you know, you're starting -- I wouldn't call it a comprehensive strategy, but you're starting to see today at least some policy developments that is more than a couple tweets off the top of his head. You have the State Department calling for further isolation of North Korea. You have a call for a United Nations Security Council meeting. And you on the sort of show of force side, you know, this video that the Pentagon is putting out to remind the North Koreans and the world of our capabilities in the region. KEILAR: Kaitlan, do you get a sense of -- covering the White House,
do you get a sense of what the president's style is on this? Because as he is being tested, what are we to expect? Do you know?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, we've heard for a long time from Donald Trump that North Korea is what he thought was the United States' biggest national security threat. But until just now, this is the first we're hearing from the White House on this. Last night, Donald Trump tweeted two times saying that Japan and South Korea are surely going to get sick of the activity in North Korea, and he suggested that China should do something.
But today, there was no other statement from the White House until about an hour ago until when we heard from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
[18:55:02] So, we largely haven't heard much of his plan besides what he said on Twitter.
KEILAR: So, it's deferring -- so that -- he is deferring more to his secretary of state. We see this military response. Besides Twitter, we're not really seeing him address this.
LIZZA: His statement on Twitter was fairly passive. It was sort of almost as a bystander.
KEILAR: It seemed to be a very, like an observer in a way, the commentator.
LIZZA: And today, he was playing golf.
DEMIRJIAN: And he apparently tweeted that before we started having the discussion of whether it was an ICBM or not, which is important to note, because that really is the critical turning point of this is today and that's why you're seeing a different kind of response because it is a new kind of level of this game.
COLLINS: I do think we're seeing them take a stronger stance on this, though, because the issue that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just issued was lengthy and had very strong wording in it and compared to the one he sent exactly three months ago, in April, it was short and two sentences and said they had no further comment except that they knew that the missile had been launched.
KEILAR: The issue being forced there to have more comment.
I want to get back now to the Pentagon.
Barbara Starr, give us an update here.
STARR: Yes. Hi, Brianna.
I want to point out, CNN has reported for several days now, the whole CNN Pentagon team online and on TV that military commanders several weeks ago began to update military options in particular because of the concern about an ICBM test, the concern about an underground nuclear test. They wanted to give President Trump a series of rapid response options to look at. We have reported that.
So, this is not such a surprise inside the highest levels of the U.S. military. They don't like to wait around to be asked. They are ready to go with options for the president all the time.
The concern always is, how North Korea may react to any of this. That's what nobody can predict. Will North Korea react with additional provocation?
Are U.S. troops at a higher state of alert? You can assume that U.S. troops are completely ready to defend themselves as well as the South Koreans are at all times on the peninsula. They're always at a high state of alert.
But all of this that we're seeing had begun to be put in the mix as we reported at CNN many weeks ago as the concern grew and the intelligence grew that North Korea in fact was making progress on an intercontinental ballistic missile and was continuing very strongly to pursue a nuclear warhead program.
So, what they wanted to do was have a series of escalating options for President Trump that, in fact, could be put into place very rapidly. That's what we're seeing tonight.
KEILAR: John, I know you said earlier about this Rex Tillerson statement, you said this is somewhat predictable.
KEILAR: Kaitlan brings up this really good point, though, which is there -- a reaction is being forced by this action, by North Korea.
KEILAR: The State Department has to respond. This is -- this is where they are -- it is essential that they react.
KIRBY: Yes, no, I agree with that. I think Kaitlan's right. I mean, they had to react to this with something.
What I meant was that there wasn't anything all that dramatic in the statement.
KIRBY: They are using the vehicles of statecraft, the U.N. Security Council and this, you know, issue of aid workers obviously to make their point, this threat, if you will.
But note a couple of things you also should notice about this. It's interesting that the Pentagon's press release came from the Eighth Army headquarters there in Korea. Not from the Pentagon. Not from DOD.
They pushed it down the chain of command and you don't see anything coming out of the White House officially. There's no presidential statement. There's no press secretary statement.
I think this was very deliberately try to kind of not escalate this too much both rhetorically, and not to escalate it too much kinetically. This whole thing was sort of designed to send a message, but to send it at a level that wouldn't increase the instability or provoke any more drastic action by Pyongyang as a result.
KEILAR: We have about a minute left, but I do want to ask you. So, when Kim Jong-un sees this, is he going to make that connection that this isn't coming straight from the State Department -- this isn't coming straight from the Pentagon? I mean, is that -- would that be a bigger deal to him or does that not even matter?
KIRBY: That's a fair question. I don't think he's going to, you know, necessarily make a difference between coming from the Eighth Army headquarters or the White House. I think that's what the communication strategy was here.
He will certainly have some sort of reaction to this. Obviously, this will provoke him in some way. But I think they tried to do this in a way that wouldn't be so overtly provocative, that it would cause him to do something more drastic than what he's already done. Now, again, we've seen this in the past where we react and he still keeps on developing this program.
KEILAER: All right. John Kirby, Barbara Starr, and thank you so much to my panel as well. I really appreciate all of you and your insight.
I'm Brianna Keilar. Thank you so much for watching. To our viewers here in the United States, a very happy Fourth of July to you.