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North Korea Announces Successful Hydrogen Bomb Test; Trump Condemns North Korea's Nuclear Test. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired September 3, 2017 - 07:00   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.

And new developments in the breaking news: Russia is now calling for the strongest condemnation of North Korea after it has announced its powerful, most provocative nuclear test yet.

[07:00:07] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: And the regime calling today's hydrogen bomb test a, quote, perfect success. North Korea saying that.

Also saying they can now load this warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile, putting America within reach.

BLACKWELL: Now, that would be a major development and clear message to the world and President Trump that North Korea is not backing down.

PAUL: So, here's what we know. Overnight, the USGS measured a 6.3 magnitude earthquake not far from North Korea's test site. The numbers are still coming in, we want to put out. But South Korea estimates that it at 50 kilotons, it is the sixth and easily the strongest nuclear test we have seen and that 50 kilotons is obviously, much stronger than the 10 that was registered in September.

BLACKWELL: Yes, just hours before this announced test, Pyongyang said it had an ICBM ready hydrogen bomb. These are the pictures purporting to show North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspecting that bomb.

This morning, global leaders are condemning the test, 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 national security council now to collect information and analyze this.


PAUL: We want to begin with CNN's Will Ripley. He joins us from Tokyo.

He just returned, I think yesterday, didn't you? From Pyongyang? What are you hearing there this morning? WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I woke up in

Pyongyang yesterday, landed here in Tokyo last night. I thought when I left North Korea after speaking with government officials and some statements from North Korean media, talking about the fact if the United States were to shift its longstanding position of refusing to acknowledge North Korea as a nuclear power, then perhaps Kim Jong-un and his government would be open to diplomacy.

But I'll tell you, when they released those images Sunday morning here local time, showing Kim Jong-un looking over that miniaturized nuclear warhead, North Korea called it an H-bomb, capable of being placed on an intercontinental ballistic, I started to get a little nervous. And of course, it was a couple of hours later, the earthquake was detected -- a massive 6.3 earthquake at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site. This is in a mountainous border region near China. The earthquake felt not just in North Korea but registering seismic monitoring stations all over the world. An explosion, eight, possibly ten times stronger than a nuclear bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima here in Japan back in 1945, and yet another sign that North Korea is not backing down despite the fiery rhetoric from President Trump but, in fact, escalating the situation.

We were speaking with government officials in Pyongyang all last week. And they said that they do not want to use these nuclear weapons that they are developing against the United States, even when they launched that intermediate range ballistic missile over Hokkaido, the northern island here in Japan, even when they launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles in the month of July and now, of course, their sixth nuclear test, the fourth test ordered by Kim Jong-un.

North Korea says these weapons of mass destruction, which the world views as a provocative, reckless, dangerous threat, North Korea actually thinks they are keeping the peace by preventing the United States from launching a preemptive attack on their country and perhaps giving them some leverage against the U.S., which is a far more powerful, far more wealthy, far more influential adversary. Now, we need to wait and see how the U.S. will respond, Victor and Christi.

PAUL: All right. Will Ripley, appreciate the update there. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: CNN correspondent Boris Sanchez joins us live now. Any further reaction, any reaction at all from the White House?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Victor and Christi.

No reaction yet from the White House. CNN has also reached out to the Pentagon, but we have yet to hear back. We should tell you that we are hearing some information coming from South Korea. We understand that several of their security chiefs have spoken with their American counterparts as well as some Japanese security chiefs have spoken with their American counterparts, including H.R. McMaster. So we know at least the administration is aware of these tests. They are aware of the South Korean response.

And a very interesting note from the security chief in South Korea. He writes that South Korea has discussed, quote, deploring the strongest U.S.-military assets in the region to neutralize North Korea. So, some very sensitive conversations going on right now. You can imagine the White House is preparing a response and this really will be key in determining the future of this relationship, in part, because of the escalation that we have seen.

Just about every time that there has been some provocation from North Korea, a test or a missile launch, we have seen a very stern, strong and aggressive response from President Trump, be it fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen, or saying that our military assets are locked and loaded, saying that all options are on the table.

[07:05:07] And each and every time, we see a stronger provocation from North Korea -- this one by far being the strongest.

The question now becomes, how will the White House respond? Will we see President Trump again come forward and be aggressive and assertive and giving a stern warning to Kim Jong-un or will we see him take a much more diplomatic track, what we have seen from some of his closest advisers, including Secretary of Defense James "Mad Dog" Mattis, a man who's known for not mincing words, saying that diplomacy is the best option forward with North Korea. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson echoing those remarks.

The president, himself, just a few days left the door open for diplomacy saying he believes that Kim Jong-un was beginning to respect the United States saying that, maybe, but not probably something good will come of that. After that we saw North Korea launch missiles over Japan and then we saw the president tweet out in part saying that talking is not the answer. A very -- there is the tweet there. A very, very concerning moment and, again, the response from the White House here will determine this relationship moving forward, Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: All right. Boris Sanchez for us from Washington -- Boris, thank you.

PAUL: I want to go to CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

Christiane, so, here -- as we look at this this morning, we've got Russia calling for the strongest condemnation of a nuclear North Korea test. We've got China saying the same. We've got South Korea saying the same. All of these condemnations a lot of people will look at it and say they have gotten us nowhere. They haven't slowed down the proliferation of these regimes to test these nuclear ambitions.

Where do we go from here?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's actually absolutely right. Nothing been tried so far has actually worked in this regard. And the key U.S. officials, senior U.S. officials with the most plugged in to the North Koreans have been saying for a while now that this regime is not going to give up its nuclear weapons. They view it as a deterrent against a destruction of their own regime and the guarantor of the survival of the Kim dynasty.

So, what next? Remember that the key issue here in today's development is this militarized hydrogen bomb they claim they have perfected, they claim they can put it on an ICBM, which means it can reach the United States. That is the game-changing development that happened today, the fact that it could reach the U.S. So, what does the U.S. do? It has to get its allies on board.

Analysts are now saying that it has to really come up with a very firm policy of deterrents and containing North Korea. You can't stop them. They've got the goods right now. You've got to stop them using it. You've got to make it absolutely clear that nothing is going to happen to their advantage if they use this.

So, the old fashion, you know, Soviet-U.S. style, you know, deterrent and containment. So, that actually has to go into place.

And then convince, again, China, as everybody knows, is a big and major player in this. And China has not yet taken that strategic step, that strategic decision to go all out to stop North Korea in this path. So, some are saying, you know, heavily increase South Korean, Japanese, U.S., the defense in that area there, heavily, heavily build it up, make that a bad thing or an uncomfortable thing for China, and give China the option: either you take the lead, either you do this and you deal with it, you put on heavy sanctions, you spell out the facts of life to North Korea, or you're going to see a much, much bigger buildup of U.S. and its allied forces in the region.

And then, potentially, down the line, there'd be some room, once a real containment in place, for some kind of negotiations. But right now, the aim is to make clear to North Korea that it's going to be contained and it can't use those weapons.

BLACKWELL: Christiane, let me ask you. We have talked about this latest condemnation coming from Russia, calling for the strongest condemnation. Just before we came on, I was reading this article that was released by the Kremlin in which Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted as saying, and I wrote it down, putting pressure on Pyongyang to stop its nuclear missile program is misguided and futile. It seems like an inconsistency at the least and a discrepancy there.

What do you make of that?

AMANPOUR: Well, you see that is the problem. When President Putin and President Xi Jinping of China met a couple of months ago, they said, yes, North Korea has got to stop this, but also the United States has to stop its presence in the region, has to stop its joint exercises with South Korea, has to basically remove itself from the Korean peninsula, basically taking Pyongyang's line about U.S. reciprocal actions, as they would like to see it. Well, that for the United States and for its allies in the region is a nonstarter.

[07:10:04] So, that is where Russia and China are at odds with the other members of the five permanent Security Council members. So, that's a problem. So, they really do have to be brought on board to get as much of a unified and single voice because a very powerful and increasingly sophisticated nuclear North Korea is not in anybody's interest, not just the United States but not just the region, but Russia, China, and all of those other countries.

PAUL: All right. Christiane Amanpour, thank you so much for the insight.

BLACKWELL: Well, he has threatened to retaliate with fire and fury. You know those words from President Trump. But how will the president react to the latest nuclear test now? Our political panel joins us live to discuss.

PAUL: Also, global leaders, including China, as we said, strongly condemning North Korea's latest test and calling for new measures against the regime. It seems that they know where they want to go. The question is, how do they make it happen?


[07:15:13] PAUL: Breaking news this hour: North Korea claiming to have had, quote, perfect success in testing a hydrogen bomb for its intercontinental ballistic missile and the international community is reacting now this morning.

BLACKWELL: They are indeed.

Look at the pictures here of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un right after the test here. This is the country's sixth test of a nuclear weapon, first of the president, the Trump administration I should say.

Japan says the tremors caused by the test were at least 10 times more powerful than the last nuclear test.

PAUL: And here's the thing: North Korea has ignored warnings and sanctions and attempts to diplomacy which makes everybody say, where do we go from here?

BLACKWELL: Yes, here is what the president said last month about Kim Jong-un.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Kim Jong-un, I respect the fact that I believe he is starting to respect us. I respect that fact very much. And maybe, probably not, but maybe something positive can come about.


BLACKWELL: All right. Joining us now, CNN politics reporter Tom LoBianco and Sarah Westwood, White House correspondent for "The Washington Examiner".

Good morning to you.

And, first, let me start with you -- you know, we talked this morning about some of the inconsistencies between the president and members of his cabinet and if that is just members on different pages or strategy. But I think we need to pay attention what the president has said. He said fire and fury if Kim Jong-un threatens the U.S. and then he says that it seems like they are respecting us. Days later, he said that the time for talking is over.

So, what room has the president left himself for a response to this nuclear test, Tom, that would be -- that would match the latest rhetoric or any of it?

TOM LOBIANCO, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, it's really interesting, right? We need to see what he is going to say, what he's going to tweet. We're all anxious to see how he is going to respond today.

You know, if you look at North Korea and Kim Jong-un what is going is a constant trajectory, a constant increase -- you know, increasing of what their capabilities, their displays and everything. That's been a constant, you know, trajectory there.

What we are seeing in the Trump, though, and the Trump White House is a little back and forth. So, you know, one day, it's fire and fury. You know, a couple of weeks later, maybe we'll get him to the table.

So, you know, there is a big question there right now. And, you know, the one thing I keep on going back to in all this, you know, from Harvey to Charlottesville and North Korea, these constant issues is that you have to have your own house in order first. And that's why it's important they have the big change with Kelly a few weeks ago and that's going to be another real big test at how Kelly plays, Chief of Staff Kelly plays into this response. So, we are all watching anxiously right now.

PAUL: Yes. Sarah, let's listen together here to something that Dr. Bruce Bechtol, a professor at the Department of Security Studies in Texas said just yesterday here about North Korea.


DR. BRUCE BECHTOL, PROFESSOR, DEPARTMENT OF SECURITY STUDIES: Put real economic pressure on North Korea's elicit financial activities, many of them are related to proliferation and many of them help raise money so they can keep building these new modernized systems by their standards.


PAUL: The elicit dealings, the global dealings he is talking about, there are reports and beliefs that they get their money to finance all of this from hacking banks and dealing drugs and counterfeit cash. Is there a way for the international community to infiltrate that?

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, it's hard to police the illegal activity that North Korea already engages in. What the United States can do is put pressure on China primarily and other regional allies to exercise its influence in Pyongyang to take money off the table that's part of the economy. I believe it's a very significant, as much as a third, of North Korea's economy is money from China. So, that is the kind of pressure that the United States can put on China.

But Trump has already expressed his dissatisfaction with the way Beijing has handled North Korea, has said that China is not doing as much as it can to put pressure on North Korea, and I think that's why you saw the administration this summer take step, pave the way to crack down on China when it comes to trade intellectual property theft to increase that pressure on Beijing. They tried the carrot approach to try to entice China to work with them on North Korea by backing off that threat Trump made during the campaign to label China a currency manipulator.

Then Trump was clear that he was not satisfied with how far China was getting with North Korea, brought in the stick, saying, we're going to crack down on you for stealing American I.P. for what we view as unfair trade practices unless you step up your game with North Korea. And it's not clear yet whether that's been effective, but that's certainly one of the approaches that the administration is going to be looking at in the coming days.

[07:20:03] BLACKWELL: Yes, the president, and we talked about it this morning said the talks are not the answer. (AUDIO GAP) and several times over the administration. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said talks are possible with North Korea abandons its nuclear developments and ambitions.

Is there anything element in this administration, Tom, that thinks that possibly they would have to offer a concession and have the talks before that to try to stop North Korea from getting to that point of a nuclear warhead?

LOBIANCO: I think it's fascinating to watch the advisers here and the seniors secretaries, Tillerson, Mattis, you know, the way they have come out and in agreement that, you know, some diplomatic measure needs to be taken here. And, you know, I want to go back to having everything in order in the White House.

You know, remember, you know, it wasn't too long ago that we were seeing these big reports internally of the president's problems with Tillerson, you know? This disconnect between them. We have seen reporting over the last few days about chafing under Kelly.

So, again, everything need to be in order for this to work, because you have -- at the end of the day, you could have Tillerson saying it, you could have Mattis saying it. What matter what comes out in that Trump tweet. That is what is the statement of the United States, and if it says more fire or fury, well, then, it almost doesn't matter what the secretary of state or the defense secretary say.

PAUL: All right. Good point. Sarah Westwood and Tom LoBianco, thank you both so much for being with us.


PAUL: Sure.

And later this morning, we want to let you know, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Arizona Senator Jeff Flake both going to be on "STATE OF THE UNION" with Dana Bash, in for Jake Tapper. That's at 9:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

BLACKWELL: China has strongly condemned North Korea's actions as leader from the five countries are meeting today.

CNN's Andrew Stevens is in China and will have the latest reaction from there.

PAUL: And he's a bad or a sick guy. That's what President Trump has said when he accused President Obama of wire-tapping Trump Tower. Well, the Department of Justice says there is no proof that it ever happened.


[07:26:23] PAUL: Always so grateful to have your company. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell.

PAUL: We have breaking news out of the North Korea I want to show you this hour. Pyongyang is claiming it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb overnight. This is hydrogen bomb designed to fit its intercontinental ballistic missile and the international community is reacting now.

BLACKWELL: The test caused a 6.3 magnitude quake in the country's northeast region, and tremors that are ten times stronger than the last nuclear test.

PAUL: Now, South Korea held an in this national security council meeting presided over by President Moon Jae-in after this test. Listen to South Korea's presidential chief security adviser here.


CHUNG EUI-YONG, SOUTH KOREA'S PRESIDENTIAL CHIEF SECURITY ADVISER (through translator): During the meeting, we decided to discuss measures to deploy the strongest U.S. military assets that the U.S. military has in line with the U.S.-South Korea alliance and to show off our military strike capabilities to neutralize North Korea's nuclear facilities and missiles.


BLACKWELL: And this morning, CNN's Will Ripley tweeted this picture of Rodong newspaper, mouthpiece of North Korea's ruling workers party he writes shows Kim Jong-un inspecting miniaturized nuclear warhead to go on ICBM. It's intercontinental ballistic missile.

PAUL: CNN Asia Pacific editor Andrew Stevens joining us live from Tokyo.

And, Andrew, we are understanding right now that China's foreign minister has come out and condemned this, but China's president has not. What are you hearing there?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA PACIFIC EDITOR: Yes, that's right, Christi, and certainly China condemned in no uncertain fashion either strongly condemning the action, that provocative action taken by North Korea and warning North Korea not to take what it says the wrong actions.

But interestingly, there's no indication from Beijing that they are preparing to change this strategy about dealing with North Korea. China has made it clear for quite sometimes, several weeks now, it's got the backing of Russia on this. So, this is a diplomatic solution only and the only way to get the talking started is to -- is for the U.S. to stop holding its joint military exercises with South Korea that so incenses North Korea, and at the same time North Korea stops -- suspends its missile program and its nuclear program. Obviously, over the past few hours we have seen there is no indication at all that North Korea plans to do this.

But China is sticking to this line. Having said that, North Korea certainly poked the eye of the Chinese President Xi Jinping with his action because it comes on the eve of this sort of prestigious summit seen in China on of the BRICS countries. This is the five countries, Brazil, India, China, and South Africa, and, of course, Russia.

The leaders are assembling here. This was Xi Jinping's big moment both internationally and nationally. The last thing he wanted to be is hijacked by North Korea. And pointedly, he said nothing about North Korea in his opening comments here.

There is no doubt that Beijing is angry. But it's all about how much influence does Beijing have at the moment. Neither of North Korea's leader nor China say they have visited the other, and that's a telling sign. That's been going on several years now. There's no love loss between these two.

But as I say, no indication China is prepared to ratchet things up. Ninety percent of North Korea's International Trade goes through China. It has that leverage but it's saying that basically indicating it prefers to have a nuclear North Korea as opposed to a chaotic North Korea in collapse of millions of refuges. This is a line they have used for a long time, Christi.

[07:30:02] PAUL: Yes, it is. Andrew Stevens, I want to correct myself, in China there. Andrew Stevens in China -- Andrew, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Let's bring in now, Jean Lee, a CNN contributor and global fellow with the Wilson Center. Jean opened the "Associated Press" Pyongyang bureau back in 2012. She's on the phone with us.

PAUL: Jean, thank you so much.

What do you -- what do you glean here from what we have been hearing this morning about North Korea? Can they be brought to the negotiating table?

JEAN LEE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR (via telephone): You know, this was a major development. So I woke up here in Seoul to these photos that paper with these photos of Kim Jong-un with this miniaturized nuclear warhead. And we shouldn't underestimate how significant a development this is. This is one of the key aspects that they were trying to accomplish was to get a nuclear warhead small enough, light enough, but powerful enough to put on an intercontinental ballistic missile to strike the U.S.

So, this is something that Kim Jong-un has said he is doing this year and he is now saying he has accomplished it. So, a major milestone in terms of North Korea. So, a major provocation for the region that nuclear test that followed. I mean, it's one after another today was massive.

And, you know, as somebody who's sitting here in Seoul to have a nuclear explosion of that magnitude, of course, such a huge increase in payload compared to previous tests is frightening just from a nuclear security point of view. And we don't have international inspectors who are able to go in and monitor it or check to make sure there isn't any radiation.

So, major development. This is something that North Korea is going to be celebrating. They have a foundation day coming up on Saturday. So, they are going to be looking at this as something that they can celebrate.

But it comes -- it will come at a cost. It's going to mean more sanctions, more isolation, but I think that after -- and hoping that after a certain period, that all of these parties will be able to get to the negotiating table because there is really no other way out of this standoff.

PAUL: All right. Jean Lee, thank you so much. Appreciate your insight there.

BLACKWELL: All right. Just --


PAUL: Well, today, if you've forgotten, is a National Day of Prayer for the people affected by Hurricane Harvey. President Trump made the declaration from the Oval Office on Friday, along with faith leaders and representatives from the Red Cross and Salvation Army.

BLACKWELL: So far, 53 people have died in Houston area alone, thousands more as we have seen are displaced.

The president and the first lady met with storm survivors in Texas and Louisiana yesterday. They also met with local and state official and pledged billions of dollars in federal aid to help rebuild.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I've been working to help coordinate and connect city officials and county officials with state officials and federal officials to ensure that the assistance that is entitled under federal law is delivered, and then that I'm confident when Congress returns next week that we're going to see widespread bipartisan agreement on providing very substantial assistance to the people of Texas, and the president has given his unequivocal and strong support that he's going to have our back and I and every other Texan are very grateful.


BLACKWELL: Senator Cruz there is saying that some neighborhoods that will be under water for weeks and it could take years to completely rebuild. A lot of work ahead.

PAUL: Well, President Trump remember accused President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower. There was no proof offered that. Now, the Department of Justice says that's because there isn't any.

BLACKWELL: Plus, we give you an exclusive look at America's last line of defense against a possible incoming nuclear missile attack.


[07:38:23] BLACKWELL: All right. The president is awake and sending out official statements via Twitter about North Korea's H-bomb test.

CNN correspondent Boris Sanchez is joining us live.

What are we hearing from the president?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Victor and Christi.

Yes, the president tweeting out seven minutes ago. He writes, quote: North Korea has conducted a major nuclear test. Their word and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States.

This clearly one of at least a series of tweets that are upcoming from the president. He has yet to follow that up.

Of course, the question has to be what would be his approach in responding to this latest provocation from North Korea? Does he continue this line of aggressive, threatening rhetoric when he says that North Korea will see fire and fury unlike any the world has ever seen before? Or saying that all U.S. military assets are locked and loaded and that all options are on the table? Or does he take a much more measured approach, something that's been recommended by some of his closest advisers, the Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who said that diplomacy is the way to move forward with North Korea, something that was echoed by the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as well.

So far, we have no indication as to how the president is set to respond to this. We know that the administration was working on some kind of response. From what we understand overnight, security officials, both in South Korea and in Japan, have been in touch, in communication with their American counterparts, including national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

[07:40:04] One interesting note that may give us an idea what is being examined by the U.S. and its allies in the region is a South Korean security chief alluding to the fact that the United States -- oops. And here is the second part of that tweet.

Again, the president writing: North Korea is a rogue nation, which has become a great threat, an embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.

This echoes something that the president has said before. We've heard him as far back as the campaign trail alluding to the fact that he believes China needs to do more to tamper down some of the aggression by North Korea and he's tweeted that he is frustrated with the lack of Chinese involvement and here is another reference to that, saying that North Korea is an embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with very little success -- Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: All right. Boris Sanchez from Washington, watching the president's response, we'll bring you back if he offers anything more. All right. Thanks so much.

PAUL: You know, White House correspondent for "The Washington Examiner", Sarah Westwood, is with us now.

Sarah, Boris just read the who latest tweets coming in ten minutes and one minute ago, two minutes ago. They sound like very measured responses from the president.

BLACKWELL: And nothing new.

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Exactly. They are in keeping with what the administration has laid out so far as its basic strategic vision for North Korea which is its primary preferred course of action would be to have China deal with North Korea, to have China exert economic pressure on North Korea.

And the administration has been pretty clear that military force is the last resort option, the worst-case scenario. It's something they don't want to do, and Trump and the White House have been very careful not to draw any red lines around North Korea, in case North Korea oversteps those lines and then forces the administration's hand and creates a situation like President Obama had when he drew redlines around Syria. So, this is something the administration has been really careful to keep all its options, not to box itself in on North Korea because the regime is somewhat unpredictable and doesn't, you know, operate like any other country. And so, this statement from President Trump is pretty consistent with what we've seen from him so far in North Korea.

PAUL: Well, here's the thing, when we talk about consistency, we've heard the fire and fury comments from him earlier and just days later, let's listen to what he said after that.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Kim Jong-un, I respect the fact that I believe he is starting to respect us. I respect that fact very much. And maybe, probably not, but maybe something positive can come about.


PAUL: Sarah, do we have any indication what happened to go from fire and fury to I respect the fact that I -- what made him believe Kim Jong-un was starting to respect us?

WESTWOOD: Well, look, I think President Trump, it's not the first time he has expressed respect for Kim Jong-un. In the past, he's made comments about how Kim Jong-un had to take over the country at such a young age from his father and he respected his leadership, and those comments caused a stir in the past. So, it's not the first time that he's made some vaguely kind statements about the leader of North Korea.

But certainly it raised eyebrows at the time and now in the context of this additional nuclear test the first one of his administration, it definitely raises eyebrows once again. And we just don't know how President Trump is going to handle this moving forward. Is he going to stick to this measured tone if he is put in front of reporters later today or tomorrow? Is he going to make an off-hand, off- scripted remark that undermines this initial response to the nuclear test? Because those are the kind mistakes we have seen the White House make in the past that has weakened its position on any given issue.

So that's always a risk that President Trump could undercut his own message by coming out with a rogue comments that escalates tensions with Pyongyang even further.

BLACKWELL: All right. We'll see if this is the entirety of the Twitter statement. We've got a few minutes before this is over. Sarah Westwood, thank you for being with us.

WESTWOOD: Thank you.

PAUL: Well, tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, obviously, especially this morning reaching these new heights and international community now chiming in, we take a look into America's last line of defense here that would stop an incoming nuclear attack from this regime.


[07:48:45] BLACKWELL: All right. The breaking news this morning, President Trump is now responding to North Korea's announcement that it has tested a nuclear bomb here. We have got the first two tweets in and now a third in just the last couple of second.

Let's read them for you. North Korea has conducted a major nuclear test. Their word and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States.

PAUL: North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and an embarrassment to China which is trying to help but with little success. And the last tweet, just three minutes ago: South Korea is finding, as

I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work. They only understand one thing.

Now, we have heard from South Korea today --


PAUL: -- and I don't know if appeasement would be word to characterize what they're saying.

BLACKWELL: Yes, appeasement, obviously, historically, a loaded term, but that South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said that he wants to engage in some type of discussion. We know that the president just a couple of days ago that talking is not the answer.

So, we wonder if the president equates talking, the possibility of negotiations with North Korea as appeasement, also understanding one thing. Is that strength? Is that military strength? Will we see a ratcheting up of the U.S./South Korean presence in the air and in the waters there off the peninsula?

[07:50:01] We'll have to see, but the president now with three tweets in the last 20 minutes. We'll see if there's more coming officially from the White House.

PAUL: And we've heard from China's foreign minister. We've heard from Russia. We've heard from South Korea, all condemning what happened overnight, but we do some sounds from North Koreans who are reacting to this latest nuclear test. Listen to what's happening in their country.


SHIN SEOK CHOL, NORTH KOREAN RESIDENT (through translator): I feel great pride how much nuclear warheads have advanced in their precision. We've all felt it, but we can now perfectly rely on our operation ability and just how greatly our nuclear weapons technology has progressed.

JANG GUK HWAN, NORTH KOREAN RESIDENT (through translator): Just heard the news that the tests for the nuclear warhead to be installed onto intercontinental ballistic missile has been successfully conducted. I am cheering with pride and honor, to call myself part of the people of our great and respective leader Kim Jong-un's nation.


BLACKWELL: And while that's a fascinating edition, I don't know what one we would expect that we would see on official state North Korean state television other than praises of Kim Jong-un and the glee from the people there in North Korea.

And North Korea escalating this line of threats 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 United States 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 beneath.

We're allowed rare access to bring you up close to America's ground- based 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 here?

ORTEGA: The kill vehicle is right there towards 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 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-based 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 the 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.

LAH: Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan believes the interceptors are still America's best shot as a last defense, as North Korea rapidly moves closer to being able to strike the U.S. mainland, introducing a bill boosting the number of missiles to a total of 72, setting the possibility of 100 missile interceptors. So far, a cost of $40 billion to taxpayers.

SULLIVAN: Doing nothing in the face of this threat when we clearly have the capability to make sure we have a very protected homeland is not an acceptable option, and I think most Americans would agree with me on that.

LAH (on camera): So, what about the argument that North Korea will never actually fire a missile, that this is all just a bargaining chip? Well, Senator Sullivan says the flaw in that thinking is that it assumes that Kim Jong-un is rational. He calls it expensive, but a necessary insurance policy.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.



[07:49:18] BLACKWELL: The latest development in this morning's breaking news, in just the last few minutes, President Trump tweeting his condemnation of North Korea's hydrogen bomb test, calling North Korea a rogue nation.

PAUL: And with that said, look at what they're seeing in North Korea. You've likely seen her every time North Korea's announced a nuclear test or a missile launch, North Korean television anchor Ri Chun Hee here, delivering government propaganda on state TV. She announced the nuclear test today.

BLACKWELL: She's one of the North Korea's most familiar faces, has been on the air for 40 years nearly there in the country.

PAUL: And we're going to continue the conversation, obviously, about North Korea, and all things politics. Thank you so much for sharing your morning with us. We appreciate you.