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North Korea Tested ICBM-Ready Hydrogen Bomb; A Closer Look at North Korea's Ruling Family; Chris Christie Slams Ted Cruz Over Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund; U.S. Readies Its Missile Defense System; Aired 5-6a ET

Aired September 3, 2017 - 05:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

[05:00:08] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning. North Korea is claiming it has successfully tested a powerful hydrogen bomb.

Good morning to you. I'm Victor Blackwell.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christi Paul. Thank you so much for being with us this morning. They also say this latest nuclear test proves that it can now lay this warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile putting America within reach. Again that is coming from North Korea.

BLACKWELL: Yes. This is a major development and a clear message for the world and President Trump that they are not backing down.

Here's what we know. Overnight the USGS measured a 6.3 magnitude earthquake. Not far from North Korea's nuclear test site. A Japanese official say their data shows today's test is at least 10 times more powerful than the test a year ago.

PAUL: A few hours ago a defiant message on state-run TV in North Korea declaring the test, quote, "a perfect success." The blast comes less than a day after Pyongyang said it had an ICBM-ready hydrogen bomb.

These images, take a look, purport to show North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, you see him there, inspecting the device. Well, this morning global leaders are condemning this test and calling for new measures against the regime.


SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): If North Korea has gone ahead with a nuclear test, this is absolutely not acceptable and we will have to strongly protest. We are starting a national Security Council now to collect information and analyze this.


PAUL: We have correspondents and experts standing by around the world for what this provocative new test means and what comes next. BLACKWELL: Let's start with CNN's Will Ripley. He joins us now from

Tokyo. He was just in Pyongyang.

Will, first to you. The significance of what we're seeing, after the fire and fury comments from the president. And just the timeline of the last couple of weeks.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is all unfolding after a series of events that infuriate North Korea. There were the joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea that ended last week. Then the United States flew B-2 bombers alongside South Korean fighter jets over the Korean peninsula in response to North Korea launching their Hwasong intermediate range missile over Hokkaido here in Japan.

After that show of force by the United States we saw messaging from North Korea indicating a willingness to open the door for diplomacy, urging the United States to rethink its position of not recognizing North Korea as a nuclear power and warning that North Korea will only continue to advances its weapons program faster if the United States puts additional pressure on Pyongyang and its leader Kim Jong-un, pressures meaning sanctions, increased diplomatic isolation and continued shows of military force.

When I landed here in Tokyo last night, I thought the situation may be calming down. And we might go back into a holding pattern for a while, but I was concerned when North Korea released those images shortly before this nuclear test showing their leader standing in front of what they claimed was a miniaturized hydrogen bomb, a warhead that could be placed on an intercontinental ballistic missile.

And then of course just a few hours after that a large earthquake, 6.3 magnitude, detected in the northern region of North Korean by the border with China, the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, the site of all of North Korea's previous underground nuclear tests and then just eight minutes later a second earthquake detected smaller, believed to be 4.3 in magnitude. Some analysts think it could be the result of a tunnel collapse which gives you a sense of just how powerful this first explosion was if it would cause the rocks underground to actually collapse, creating a secondary manmade seismic event, an event that was traced by seismologists all over the world, even in Norway where they are estimating that the yield of this explosion was around 120 kilotons of TNT.

You compare that to the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945, believed to be around 15 kilotons. So a dramatically larger explosion that anything we've seen from North Korea clearly sending a defiant message to President Trump and the United States that despite the warnings, despite the fiery rhetoric, the fire and fury remarks, the locked and loaded remarks, referring to the United States' nuclear arsenal, that North Korea and Kim Jong-un believe that these weapons of mass destruction are the leverage that are going to get them to the international diplomatic table from a position of respect.

Because what was reiterated to me time and time again when I was on the ground in Pyongyang just last week, North Korea is not developing these weapons because they want to use them against the United States. They consider this a nuclear deterrent in hopes that in the long term the United States will end what they consider a hostile policy against their country, recognize them as a nuclear weapons state.

North Korea has had it written in their constitution since 2013 that they are going to be a nuclear power and what this test has proven is that they are not straying from that goal.

BLACKWELL: All right. Will Ripley for us in Tokyo. Will, thank you very much.

PAUL: Joining us now, CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

And Christiane, I want to ask a question off of what Will just said.

[05:05:03] Is the endgame as we know it for Kim Jong-un to exert his power and to use a nuclear weapon or is it just to be recognized as a country that has the power to do so?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you heard Will's description of the North Korean side. And they say one thing. Now the importance, though, is to hear what the U.S. say and others who have really engaged with North Korea and many are now saying very similar things, that North Korea will not denuclearize.

The outgoing head of international intelligence -- director of National Intelligence in the United States said it is probably now a lost cause trying to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. That was months ago after the test before that.

We've heard from former secretary of Defense, William Perry. I've been speaking to these people for months as this crisis escalates, who says that North Korea wants three things. A, the survival of the Kim dynasty and the country, B, to be taken seriously as an international nuclear power and partner, and, C, to develop its economy.

I've talked to a former CIA analyst who is the last and the latest people to actually meet with senior North Korean officials outside North Korea to hear really what they have in mind and they have reaffirmed that just in the last month or so as well. That the North Koreans tell them, tell these American officials, that they will not denuclearize, that they will not give up their nuclear would be crazy to do so now that they're finally in the last throws of perfecting it.

They want to change the relationship and change the balance of power between North Korea and the rest of the world. They want to be taken seriously. But they also want, they say, to sign a peace deal with the U.S. Now the problem with that is that analysts believe that that will be the only thing they want. They want all U.S. forces out of the Korean peninsula and out of that area.

So it is a very tricky situation and those who really have a real handle on this, especially on the American side, are concerned that while the North Korean regime is not suicidal, they believe, that there could be some blunder, some misstep, some miscommunication when North Korea finds itself, you know, accidentally or mistakenly blundering into a confrontation, which would be catastrophic.

BLACKWELL: So there is this growing chorus of people who know the region, know the motives of Kim Jong-un who believe that he will not abandon his nuclear aspirations. Is there any official shift from the White House, from the U.N., that would shift to a policy of nonproliferation instead of attempting to convince Kim to abandon his nuclear program?

AMANPOUR: Well, one of the issues and one of the challenges for the U.S., analysts have basically described as having a policy that's, quote, "all over the map." This not just this administration. It goes back for decades.

How does one have a coordinated, coherent way of dealing with North Korea as perhaps the United States and the West had dealing with then Soviet Union during the Cold War, two nuclear powers that had to figure out a way not to annihilate each other and the rest of the world. This is not exactly that right now, obviously. North Korea is not in that position of strength. The United States is much more powerful. The rest of the world's nuclear powers -- official nuclear powers are much more powerful.

But in terms of a regional catastrophe, it would be catastrophic. There are millions and millions of people within range of a North Korean, you know, nuclear weapon and certainly conventional weapons in that region, South Korea, Japan, and elsewhere. So what most people on the -- in the West are saying and even you hear China saying, and Russia, but they have different conditions attached to it, that there has to be some kind of diplomacy that is not just about sticks but it's about carrots as well.

There has to be some kind of conversation that is maybe, you know, unpalatable at this particular time but it has to go back to some of the times in the past where there has been semi-successful negotiations, notably under the Bill Clinton administration in the '90s and for a while under the George Bush administration when he, George W. Bush, was in his second term.

So there needs to be some kind of redress of a situation that could otherwise get out of control. And you can see that within the Trump administration, there are different messages coming from President Trump himself and coming from the Pentagon and the secretary of Defense, James Mattis.

PAUL: Christiane, real quickly, you say that there obviously is -- both sides at some point want diplomacy. But who on both sides sits down at the table and facilitates that?

AMANPOUR: Well, you know, in a normal situation, you would have the president of the United States and all the other, you know, major world leaders deliver publicly a very coherent and stern message about what's going on and then develop and implement a coherent and collective strategic negotiation or moves forward, whether it's sanctions and negotiations or whatever they might come up with but something of a sort of coordinated world view of what's going on. [05:10:29] And there's a problem there, of course, because -- and I

don't mean these are the people who sit down at talks with North Korea. Obviously not presidential level. It has to start at a lower level like in any of these things in the past. But there's a problem because China and Russia also constantly vote in the Security Council at the U.N. to condemn North Korea's nuclear moves to impose sanctions, et cetera.

But they kind of take North Korea's position, that yes, and the United States should stop its joint exercises with South Korea and get out of the Korean peninsula. So, you know, they sort of take a bit of the U.S. position. And then China, which has a huge amount of leverage, no matter what it says and what it looks like, it has a huge amount of leverage, has up until now concluded apparently to all intents and purposes that a nuclear North Korea may be less of a problem for China that a collapsed North Korean regime will be, you know, tens of millions of people who would then they believe flee into North Korea and destabilize that situation there.

So the -- you know, the established nuclear powers of the five permanent members of the Security Council are not on the same page on all of this.

PAUL: All right. Christiane Amanpour, so appreciate your insight this morning, thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. So despite the new sanctions and the threats of fire and fury, North Korea tested this powerful hydrogen bomb. How will President Trump react to the latest test?



NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: To have China stand with us along with Japan and North Korea and the rest of the international community telling North Korea to do this, it's pretty impactful. This was a strong day in the U.N., this was a strong day for the United States, it was a strong day for the international community. It was not at a good day for North Korea.


BLACKWELL: Well, the breaking news this morning, North Korea claims it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb and that this warhead can be loaded onto a missile and launched toward the United States.

PAUL: It's an escalation from the regime. It comes after new sanctions from the United Nations, as you just heard there from Nikki Haley, and as well as this threat from President Trump.


[05:15:07] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: CNN correspondent Boris Sanchez joining us live.

Boris, do we have any reaction from the U.S. yet?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Victor and Christi. So far CNN has reached out to the White House and the Pentagon but we have not gotten an official response to this latest nuclear threat -- test from North Korea. However, just a few months ago we got word from South Korea that during some emergency communications between that country's chief security adviser and his American counterpart, the National Security adviser, H.R. McMaster, they discussed, quote, "the strongest U.S. military assets being deployed in that region to neutralize North Korea.

We are also expecting Moon Jae-in to have a phone conversation later today with President Trump. Both of those leaders actually speaking just on Friday. Yesterday the president actually had a call with Shinzo Abe of Japan, so this is something that perhaps they weren't expecting but something that was certainly part of the conversation with leaders in that part of the world.

Look. This has really been an escalation on both sides. You have a missile launch or a test or a threat from North Korea and then you have a stern warning or an all-out threat from the president like you heard, fire and fury, the likes of which the world has never seen. And that's responded to by another test. This by far is the strongest provocation from North Korea, the strongest nuclear test that they've had.

Their state media now claiming that they've been able to miniaturize a nuclear warhead to be able to put it on an ICBM missile. It is a very strong threat. All eyes of the world are now on President Trump's response who just a few days ago actually slightly opened the door to diplomacy. Listen to what he said.


TRUMP: Kim Jong-un, I respect the fact that I believe he's starting to respect us. I respect that fact very much. And maybe. Probably not. But maybe something positive can come about.


SANCHEZ: The president saying maybe but probably not something could come out of this. Then just days later when North Korea sent missiles flying over Japan, the president sent out a tweet saying that the United States was essentially paying extortion money to North Korea and saying that talking is not the answer. There's the tweet there.

So you've heard a very aggressive line of rhetoric from the president. Some of his closest advisers, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson opting for a much more diplomatic approach, saying that that's the route we should take. It will be interesting to see how the president responds. We were expecting a response any minute perhaps as he often does via Twitter -- Victor and Christi.

PAUL: All right. Boris Sanchez, we appreciate it. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Let's go now to former CNN correspondent Mike Chinoy in Hong Kong.

Mike, good morning to you. I want to start with the portion of this statement that was posted on the Web site for the Chinese Foreign Ministry in which China says that it will work with the international community to fully implement U.N. Security Council resolutions on the DPRK. We're just weeks out from what Ambassador Haley described as a gut punch to North Korea with those sanctions. They didn't work. There was a missile launch over Japan and now this hydrogen bomb test.

Does this make talks more likely and what's the optimism that those talks would even be fruitful?

MIKE CHINOY, SENIOR FELLOW, U.S. CHINA INSTITUTE, USC: Well, there are a couple of different questions here. In terms of China, the Chinese are in a very uncomfortable position. They don't approve of North Korea's nuclear program. They get very uneasy at the direction things are going. But up to now their calculation has been that it's more dangerous to so squeeze North Korea that it might collapse or it might back Kim Jong-un into a corner where he might lash out.

And therefore, while China supports the sanctions and has implemented some sanctions, Beijing has held off from doing the really, really tough things it might otherwise do. In particular, it has not cut shipments of oil and particularly aviation fuel to North Korea. But the Chinese are uncomfortable with that.

In terms of talks, the North Koreans have consistently indicated that they're willing to talk to the United States. It's just a question of what the talks will be about. The North Koreans I think would like to come to the table as two -- with the United States as two nuclear powers dealing with each other on the basis of equality, discussing issues of arms control. The U.S., if there are to be talks, wants those to be about North Korea getting rid of its nukes.

[05:20:07] But I think at this point, the danger is you're in a cycle of escalation. The North Koreans have made it very clear they're going to ignore all the threats, all the enhanced sanctions, all the tough rhetoric from President Trump. And without some diplomatic avenue, it's very hard to see how you get out of this cycle of escalation and the more it continues, the greater the danger of miscalculation leading to catastrophe. So that I think is the big worry now.

PAUL: Mike, North Korea has been accused of funding their nuke program through some global illicit dealings, from hacking banks, stealing drugs, counterfeiting cashes. Is there any way to infiltrate those routes of North Korean financing?

CHINOY: I think all sorts of measures have been tried over many years to try and blunt North Koreans' ability to move ahead with its missile and nuclear program. None of them had worked and the reality is I don't think any of these are going to work either. The North Koreans have a largely self-contained program.

But I think it's important, and with all the alarmists' headlines, to remain aware of the fact that the North Koreans see this as primarily defensive. This is a capability, they're requiring to deter the United States or anyone else who might think of taking military action against North Korea. So at this stage of the game, I think one of the interesting questions is going to be whether there's any room for diplomacy, whether something creative and different, some initiative, perhaps a high-level envoy, some gesture that would indicate that escalation alone is not the only course.

Some kind of off-ramp. And I think part of the judgment of the U.S. response is going to be whether that's there. If not, if it's simply going to be ramping up U.S. military assets, I think we're going to see more of the same.

One U.S. intelligence official years ago told me the North Koreans have what he described as escalation dominance. Any gestures the U.S. can take, the North Koreans can match and exceed. And that's the dynamic we're seeing now and that's what's so dangerous.

PAUL: All right. Boy, appreciate your insight there, Mike Chinoy. Thanks for being with us.

And do stay close. We have more coverage on what's happening with North Korea in just one moment. Stay close.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

[05:25:42] BLACKWELL: Welcome back. I'm Victor Blackwell.

PAUL: And I'm Christi Paul. So great to have you with us here as we cover our breaking news this hour.

BLACKWELL: Yes. North Korea claims it's successfully tested a hydrogen bomb designed to fit its international -- intercontinental, I should say, ballistic missile.

The test was announced on North Korea's state television. Now this blast caused tremors 10 times stronger than the last nuclear test about a year ago.

PAUL: This is the first test Kim Jong-un's regime has conducted since President Donald Trump took office. Just moments ago, South Korean Security officials had an emergency phone call conversation with U.S. National Security adviser H.R. McMaster to talk about the situation.

We should point out North Korea has ignored warnings and sanctions and attempts at diplomacy. So the question is, what happens next?

BLACKWELL: We're joined now by CNN military analyst, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona.

Colonel, good morning to you. And I want to start with you know, the president's -- his threat of fire and fury if North Korea threatens the U.S. or allies. Well, we saw just a couple of days ago the missile test happened and the path right over Japan. We now see this hydrogen bomb test. What has the president left himself as an option as a way to respond after saying that talks are not the answer?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes. Well, I think he was meaning that what we're doing now is not working, and I think that's -- that's a real fact. No matter what we've done, no matter what actions we've taken, no matter how many sanctions we've put on North Korea, they continue along this path towards a development of an ICBM with a nuclear warhead.

And they're almost there if they're not there already. So what does the president do? We can continue what we're doing, obviously not working, or he can change his tactic, and that would be some sort of containment mechanism. But whatever it is, we've got to come up with a coherent policy so we can move forward.

Right now we're in the same -- they do something, we threaten, they do something else, we threaten some more, and nothing changes the situation. It just gets worse.

PAUL: And because of that, I think a lot of people are waking up and they're hearing about this and they're wondering, how dangerous is this situation? As I understand it, it's the miniaturization capability that is of utmost importance here, is that correct?

FRANCONA: Yes, that's exactly right. We know they're developing the missiles because you can watch that. We can watch the test and we know what the capabilities are. And we know that they now have an ICBM. What we did not know was how far along they were on their miniaturization of a nuclear warhead for that ICBM, and appears if they're not there, they're going to be very, very shortly.

That's the threat. That's the weapon that will threaten the United States. So for years we've been saying well, we -- we have time. We have time to negotiate with North Korea. We have time for the sanctions to work. We have time -- we have time to do something to prevent them from acquiring this capability. That time is gone.

Now we have to face the new reality we're going to have a nuclear armed North Korea. So this -- today's announcement, today's test, these were just more steps. They don't have a fully operational capability yet, but they're going to get there because they've devoted the resources. This is their number one priority. They're going to do it.

BLACKWELL: Colonel, how reliable is the U.S. defense system, the THAAD system?

FRANCONA: Yes. Well, THAAD is a really good system but this THAAD is not really designed to shoot down an ICBM. It really wouldn't be defending the United States. The THAAD is a theater -- a high altitude air defense system, it would be used primarily to defend Japan and North Korea. It's excellent against short and medium range ballistic missiles. But against the intermediate range and intercontinental range.

It's really not that effective. That's where they use the ballistic defense system. The AEGIS cruisers and that -- it's a layered defense system, so depending on what missiles are fired is what system you go after it with. For the defense of South Korea, the THAAD will be absolutely critical and that's why it's important that the South Koreans get on the ball and let us put that entire system there.

BLACKWELL: All right. Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, thanks so much for your expertise.

[05:30:04] PAUL: CNN's Will Ripley live from Tokyo right now and of course you were recently there in Pyongyang, and we've just had this in the last week conversation about South Korea and how the U.S. is going to be sending military resources to South Korea, stronger military resources than have been there in the past. Possible that that conversation really aggravated Kim Jong-un and precipitated this?

RIPLEY: Well, we know that North Korea has had the capacity to conduct its six nuclear tests since as far back as at least April because you'll remember when we were in Pyongyang for their Day of the Sun celebration on April 15th all of the intelligence from spy satellites indicated that there was activity at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site and that -- all Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, had to do was give the order for them to push the button on that test. And that test did not happen.

We've seen a number of missile launches since then. We saw two intercontinental ballistic missiles tested in July and just last week North Korea launched an intermediate range ballistic missile known as the Hwasong-12 over Hokkaido, the northern island here in Japan.

But this nuclear test has always been something on the horizon. We were talking from North Korea last week that South Korea's national intelligence service has recently observed activity at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site. That mountainous region near the border with China with four underground tunnels where North Korea puts these nuclear warheads and detonates them without at least so far any environmental impact.

Now we have yet to know if radiation has seeped in the environment after this. We know that the United States deployed sniffer planes from here in Japan. They're looking for radiation in the atmosphere. China has deployed emergency radiation testing along its border to see if there's any radioactive fallout from this nuclear test. But it is an underground nuclear test.

North Korea, when they made their official announcement, they said that no radiation has been emitted into the outside environment. So we knew that North Korea was waiting and they apparently felt that now was the right time. And perhaps it would have something to do with the actions of the United States. There have been a number of actions that North Korea has considered provocative.

When I was speaking with officials in Pyongyang last week, they said that this is the most tense situation that they've experienced in recent years. And that is a combination of President Trump's fire and fury rhetoric and also those joint military exercises ongoing with South Korea as well as that show of force, those bombers and fighter jets that flew over the Korean peninsula.

PAUL: All right. Will Ripley, thank you so much. We'll be talking to you throughout the morning.

BLACKWELL: Now as this threat from North Korea grows, we'll take a look this morning at the lessons that Kim Jong-un has learned from his family that make him even more dangerous than his father and grandfather.


[05:36:11] PAUL: Breaking news this hour, North Korea claiming it has had, quote, "perfect success" in testing a hydrogen bomb designed to fit its intercontinental ballistic missile overnight.

BLACKWELL: Now this is Pyongyang's sixth test of a nuclear weapon. And Japan says the tremors caused by the test were at least 10 times more powerful than the last.

PAUL: Here's the thing. North Korea is claiming the successful bomb test just hours after warning the U.S., once again, of, quote, "disastrous consequences" to come. It's not the first time the country threatened the U.S. obviously.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Kim Jong-un inherited a growing nuclear weapons program from his father who built on the foundation left to him by his father.

CNN correspondent Brian Todd has a look at the North Korean ruling family.



BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since its founding in the late 1940s, the so-called hermit kingdom of North Korea has been led by a family dynasty, three leaders with an iron grip.

Kim Jong-un inherited from his father and grandfather a regime based on militarization, purges, kleptocracy, and repression. A former North Korean official who defected tells CNN the supreme leader's rule is unquestioned.

RI JONG HO, NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR (through translator): In order to deal with North Korea, we have to understand how the North Korea system works. They're like a dynasty and the leader is worshipped as a living god. What's important for the leader is maintaining his dynasty and the security of his regime. All the decisions are focused on that.

TODD: Analysts say some disturbing psychological traits seem to run in the family. MICHAEL GREEN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES:

Paranoia, narcissism, an abnormal attraction to violence. And that was the assessment of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. They were logical in their own context, they understood what they had to do to stay in power, but they had these psychological disorders.

TODD: But in other ways, says one former diplomat, the young Kim appears different.

GARY LOCKE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: He's not as cooperative and as communicative as his father or grandfather. And so this guy is unpredictable, he's brash, he's, in essence, irrational, and quite a big ego.

TODD: Kim's grandfather, Kim Il-sung, quickly deployed a personality cult around his leadership after he was installed with Soviet backing following World War II. Monuments to him are everywhere in North Korea. And his birthday is celebrated with giant festivals.

Kim Jong-un emulates his look, even his hairstyle, analysts say, in an attempt to derive legitimacy.

JOSEPH DETRANI, FORMER SPECIAL ENVOY TO NORTH KOREA: Kim Jong-un wants to project the image of his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, who was viewed and is viewed by the people of North Korea as a great revolutionary. He gave them independence. He fought against the colonials, he fought against Japan, he fought against the United States in the Korean War and South Korea.

TODD: Kim Jong-il was next in line with his penchant for luxuries like foreign liquor and Hollywood movies, coupled with his military build-up and his use of labor camps.

Kim Jong-un was only in his late 20s when he took over North Korea in 2011, inexperienced in government or the military. He brought an affinity for basketball, Mercedes limos, yachts, and quickly proved wrong analysts who thought he would be just a figurehead.

Kim has accelerated the missile and nuclear programs that his father and grandfather started with more tests in a few years than his predecessors conducted in decades. But he is not depending on his father's holdover cronies. Some have been purged or executed, even his powerful uncle, Jang Song-thaek, who he suspected of betrayal.

JONATHAN POLLACK, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Unlike his father, he exhibits a ruthlessness here by his actions, by the things that he's prepared to do that his father simply was not prepared to do or didn't feel the need to do it. He does.

[05:40:07] TODD: Kim Jong-un also had his older brother killed according to South Korean intelligence in a bizarre airport attack this year where two women smeared deadly VX nerve agent in his face. North Korea denied being behind the attack, but many analysts think Kim wanted to eliminate a rival.

JAMIE METZI, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL OFFICIAL: The more that Kim Jong-un can eliminate any possible contenders to the throne, the stronger a position he'll be in.

TODD: Between his continuing purges, his family bloodline, his rubber stamp parliament, and his payoffs to aides, Kim Jong-un has several ways to keep his country's elites in line.

POLLACK: He's got to have people who he feels are going to be unquestionably loyal to him, who are not going to undermine him, who are going to protect him under all circumstances.

TODD (on camera): And that's something which analysts say China is hoping for as well. The Chinese are believed to dislike Kim and disapprove of his nuclear buildup, but many experts believe the Chinese would rather see Kim in place with nuclear weapons than see him tossed from power, see North Korea collapse and have potentially tens of millions of North Korean refugees at their border.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


BLACKWELL: All right. Brian, thanks.

And we'll push forward on this breaking news throughout the morning but we want to turn to what we're seeing in Texas and the recovery from Harvey and now this political fight here.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on CNN said that Senator Ted Cruz is telling lies while being surrounded by Harvey storm survivors.

Well, next you'll hear the response from Senator Cruz himself.


[05:45:31] PAUL: Breaking news this hour, North Korea is claiming that it has, quote, "perfect success" in testing a hydrogen bomb overnight that's designed to fit its intercontinental ballistic missiles. State television calls it the final step in attaining, a, quote, "state nuclear force."

BLACKWELL: So this is North Korea's sixth test of a nuclear weapon. The first since President Trump took office. And independent monitors said the blast produced a yield of about 120 kilotons. Japan says the tremors caused by the test were at least 10 times the power of the last nuclear test.

And now turning to Texas and Louisiana and the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the death toll just moments ago was increased to 53 people now killed. And the magnitude of the tragedy continues to unfold and the response to the storm could soon be a fierce political fight.

PAUL: For instance, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, he's firing back now at New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Remember first the background here. Christie says Cruz exploited the Super Storm Sandy disaster for political gain when he voted against the 2013 storm relief bill. Well, Christie says now that the storm has hit Texas, Cruz is trying to go back and change his story. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: And I have no sympathy for this and I see Senator Cruz and it's disgusting to me that he stands in a recovery center with victims standing behind him as a backdrop and he's still repeating the same reprehensible lies about what happened in Sandy. And it's unacceptable to me.


PAUL: All right. Joining us from Houston where he spoke with Senator Cruz, CNN correspondent and anchor George Howell.

George, good to see you this morning. What did Senator Cruz tell you?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi, Senator Cruz makes it clear. I mean, the need here is great. Some 40,000 Texans in various shelters of some kind, half a million, nearly half a million applying for emergency assistance and $79 million has been doled out so far. The need is great. Senator Cruz knows that for his constituents.

He was at this shelter as Governor Christie suggested, though. The question from Governor Christie, was Senator Cruz -- is he being hypocritical in his response given his delay for Sandy relief. Here's what he had to say.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I'm quite confident that nobody will say that Texas gives a flip what Chris Christie has to say. We're dealing with a crisis. We're trying to save lives. And this state is coming together. It's not a time for this sort of partisan jabs and the nonsense in Washington. This is a time of heroes and first responders, of firefighters, of police officers.

You know, I spent much of today at Ellington Base meeting with Coast Guardsmen and National Guard and people who risked their lives, who, you know, dove into raging floodwaters to save people, to pull them to safety. And this community is coming together. We're coming together. We're going to make it through and we're going to be stronger on the other end.

HOWELL: Are you concerned that you could get pushback from lawmakers in New Jersey when it comes to getting the funding, all the federal funding that's being (INAUDIBLE)?

CRUZ: I am confident we are going to see strong bipartisan support for major federal relief. I will say from the beginning, I've spoken to the president repeatedly throughout the course of this horrible storm. At every stage the president has committed that the administration is all in. He said, Ted, whatever Texas needs, that's what you've got. We've got the full commitment of the federal government. Our governor Greg Abbott has been phenomenal. The mayor here in Houston, Sylvester Turner, has done a terrific job. And we've seen government working together. And I'll tell you, in

Congress, next week we're going to come back to Congress. I think we're going to see strong bipartisan support for disaster relief. My phone has been ringing off the hook from colleagues of mine, senators Democrats and Republicans, reaching out to say, listen, we're with you, we're standing with you, we're praying for the people of Texas and we're standing united.

HOWELL: What's the biggest concern right now with regard to infrastructure that's been damaged from the storm?

CRUZ: Well, the scope is massive. And there are already estimates that this may prove to be the costliest disaster in American history. You know, I spent yesterday down in Victoria and Rockport and Aransas past, and Port Aransas. And the devastation there is massive. It's just home after home and business after home is totaled, is obliterated.

[05:50:06] The entire Houston area, the flooding has been staggering. A couple of days ago I was out on an airboat just north of the Addicks dam where you see entire neighborhood submerged with houses up to their roof in floodwater. Tomorrow I'm flying out to Beaumont and Port Arthur where they're seeing the same thing, massive flooding that has destroyed huge, huge areas. And so the geographic breath, the number of people who've lost their homes, who've lost their cars, who've lost their businesses, is staggering.

HOWELL: What is the biggest difference between this hurricane and Sandy?

CRUZ: Now, look, both were terrible hurricanes. Both did enormous devastation and --

HOWELL: But politically.

CRUZ: You know, I don't care about politics. I care about being here for the people that are hurting. You know, we're saying right now bipartisan unity. Here in a state of Texas, that I think it's a wonderful thing. You know, a couple of days ago I went to the Houston city council meeting. Sat alongside Sheila Jackson Lee. A Democrat, represents Houston. The two of us together both thanked the city council, thanked the mayor, thanked the firefighters, thanked the police officers, thanked the city workers who worked around the clock.

And we're coming together united. We're not worried about the silliness of Washington. We are coming together. And Houston will come back, Texas will come back, the Gulf Coast will come back stronger than ever because of the spirit.

HOWELL: Senator, thank you for your time.


HOWELL: Senator Cruz saying it's not about politics. Governor Christie, though, clearly disagreeing -- Victor, Christi.

PAUL: All right. George Howell, thank you so much.

BLITZER: So while North Korea is conducting this new test, and we're discussing the implications of it, the U.S. is already prepared to defend against the threat it says.

Coming up a look at a military operation that CNN was allowed rare access to, America's last defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles.


[05:55:25] PAUL: Breaking news this hour. North Korea is claiming it, quote, "had perfect success" in testing a hydrogen bomb. This is a bomb designed to fit its intercontinental ballistic missile.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And this is North Korea's sixth test of a nuclear weapon, the first of the Trump administration. And Japan says that the tremors could be felt there and were 10 times more powerful than the last test.

PAUL: And we want to get a gauge of what exactly that means. For more on the geological readings here, I want to go to CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar.

Allison, help us understand what that means.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: OK. So you often hear when we talk about earthquakes magnitude, say, 5.1, 6.1. OK. So the difference between a 5.1 and a 6.1 isn't an 0.1 difference. They are 10 times different. OK. We just tend to use a smaller scale. It's easier, simpler numbers for us to use. OK. So this earthquake, and we are talking about the one in North Korea, an artificial earthquake. I want to make sure you understand this is not the same thing as the geological ones, the ones that you'd normally see in places like California or Japan.

This had a magnitude of 6.3 But more importantly it had a depth of zero. OK. Real geological earthquakes tend to have a depth anywhere from one kilometer to, say, even 100 kilometers because they are initiated underground. That's how the earthquakes take place. So in an instance like this where -- perhaps because of a bomb or missile or something like that, you're often going to have a depth of zero because it didn't initiate underneath the ground. It initiated either at or above the surface.

We also had a secondary earthquake, a 4.1. This one according to the U.S. Geological Survey is likely due to some type of structural collapse around where the earthquake originated, OK? Now we know of the sixth that have taken place. That includes the one that happened on Sunday, today. But this is the strongest one. The previous strongest one was back in September of last year, a 5.3. So this being a 6.3, guys, that officially makes it 10 times stronger than the one that we had before, which keep in mind, at the time, that was the strongest one that we had had.

PAUL: All right. Allison, thank you so much. BLACKWELL: All right. As North Korea escalates the threat against

the U.S., a military base in Alaska is preparing for a worst-case scenario.

PAUL: CNN senior national correspondent Kyung Lah shows us what stands between the U.S. and a North Korean nuclear missile strike.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is America's final shield, the last and only protection against an incoming North Korean nuclear missile. Housed deep underground in the heart of Alaska's wilderness at Fort Greely, about 150 miles north of Fairbanks, the heavily armed 49th Missile Defense Battalion secures 38 missile silos, dotting a landscape frigid even in late summer. The tip barely revealing what lies underneath.

We're allowed rare access to bring you up close to America's ground base missile interceptors or GBIs.

COL. ORLANDO ORTEGA, COMMANDER, 49TH MISSILE DEFENSE BATTALION: This is what will be launched here out of Fort Greely to intercept any threat that's coming into the defended homeland.

LAH (on camera): The key piece of equipment is right there.

ORTEGA: The kill vehicle is right there toward the top.

LAH (voice-over): The kill vehicle, to take down any potential intercontinental ballistic missile coming to the U.S. including from North Korea, which the U.S. could face in the future.

Here's how it works. North Korea launches --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Impact, location. This is Los Angeles. We are engaging this threat at this time.

LAH: -- instantly activating a secured room in Fort Greely. What you're seeing now is a drill declassified so we can show you generally how the ground base interceptors work to protect the U.S.

COL. KEVIN KICK, COMMANDER, 100TH MISSILE DEFENSE BRIGADE: As the alarms would go off, what you'd see is those white shells that you see behind us would separate extremely quickly and then immediately, you'd see a flash of flame as that GBI would leave the tube at a really incredible rate of speed.

LAH: Outside the Earth's atmosphere in space, if it works the interceptor kills the incoming nuclear weapon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We train to shoot a bullet at a bullet and destroy it so it doesn't destroy us.

LAH (on camera): Have the drills this year taken on a new meaning?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What that does is just makes it more real for us because now, I've got a leader of a foreign country who says, I'm going to take my missile and I'm going to kill your citizens with it.

LAH: What kind of confidence do you have if North Korea launches a missile that this system will work?

KICK: I have 100 percent confidence this system will work.

LAH (voice-over): That`s despite a 60 percent success rate. Out of 18 test launches, the interceptors have only struck its target 10 times in controlled launches.

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN (R), ALASKA: Just because we've had some failures doesn't mean we're not learning.