Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Kim Jong-un Invites South Korean President to North Korea; Israeli Fighter Jet Crashes amid Syrian Anti-Aircraft Fire; Trump Blocks Release of Democratic Memo; Number Three at U.S. Justice Department Stepping Down; U.S. Special Ops Forces Fight Ever-Changing War in Syria; PyeongChang Olympics 2018; Aired 4-5a ET

Aired February 10, 2018 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And we begin with the breaking news this hour here on CNN. The president of South Korea has been invited to visit North Korea. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

This is indeed a milestone in diplomacy between these two nations. Here are the facts. The invitation was delivered by Kim Jong-un's sister during an historic meeting with South Korea's president, Moon Jae-in.

As the first member of North Korea's ruling family to visit South Korea since 1953, Kim Yo-jong and her delegation are in South Korea for the PyeongChang Olympic Games. A lot to talk about here. Let's get started with our two correspondents following this story in South Korea.

We'll start with Paula Newton. Paula is there in Seoul, South Korea.

Paula, it's good to have you with us. A great deal to talk about here. First of all, the story typically is about provocation, it's about missiles being fired, it's about responses from South Korea, from Russia, from the United States, China and others.

But in this case, very different story this day, South and North Korea seemingly with closer ties.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and made all the more extraordinary, George, that just a couple of months ago, it looked like the tension between South Korea and North Korea could actually threaten the Winter Games. That hasn't happened. You've really had a tour de force, many are saying, by North Korea in terms of playing it this way.

But this extraordinary invitation, CNN's Will Ripley learned this might be a possibility a few days ago. And so as we reported that the possibility has happened, not only has it happened but it was interesting that the presidential Blue House here in South Korea decided to actually release that information because of course they could have decided to keep it to themselves.

But no, they want to prove that indeed the Peace Olympics that they've always wanted are here. What's not known is exactly when the visit would happen or under which conditions.

What I also want to tell you, though, is that it has been interesting that we've been watching North Korean state TV and they have reported not that the visit will happen but for the very first time, reported this extraordinary diplomacy between North Korea and South Korea.

And again, this delegation coming here for the Olympics, something that hasn't happened without precedent really. And the fact that Kim Jong-un's younger sister was sent here with the message has really been striking to many people, state TV saying that that they were greeted warmly by Moon Jae-in and saying that there were handshakes and pleasantries exchanged by the two delegations, showing stills of those opening ceremonies, George, and really putting a fine point on the fact that, as far as North Korea is concerned, they are ready to reach out a hand of peace to South Korea.

HOWELL: That is highly significant, Paula, for that particular story to make the rundown of KCNA, it clearly it's a story that the government wants people in North Korea to see.

The other question, though, in South Korea, President Moon Jae-in, how important is this for him?

Because, in fact, he did base his candidacy really on growing closer ties to North Korea.

NEWTON: Yes. And for so many months that kind of diplomacy eluded him. He has such a high wire act here and the reason is that the United States is much more skeptical about what can get done on any kind of visit. Remember that vice president Mike Pence is here and he has certainly -- he's been very blunt, saying that at every point during these Olympics, his visit to the Olympics, that he would point out that North Korea is in his words a prison state and also vowed that the United States would unveil the toughest, most aggressive sanctions ever on North Korea.

Our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, is traveling with the vice president. We're waiting to get that reaction. He had been here in Seoul earlier and had traveled back to the games to actually take in an Olympic event.

What will be interesting here is what the United States makes of all this. Now if CNN was given a heads-up on this, I'm sure American officials were as well.

The point is how do you lay the ground work for that kind of a visit, what kind of preconditions will South Korea have before going there, knowing that Moon Jae-in can't just go visit Pyongyang and come home empty-handed. The point is how far is North Korea willing to go?

And a reminder, George, that at issue here is North Korea saying that we will never denuclearize North Korea with the United States and South Korea fighting back on that, saying that needs to be the starting point of discussions.

HOWELL: Paula Newton, stand by, please. Let's bring in our colleague, Paula Hancocks, who is there at the Olympic Games in PyeongChang.

Paula, you were there at the opening ceremony and I'd like to ask our director if it is possible to show that image of the U.S. --

[04:05:00]

HOWELL: -- vice president alongside or nearby the sister of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

How important a moment was that?

And what was the feedback of -- what was the talk of it?

Because given the news that we now have, knowing that there is an invitation for the South Korean president to visit North Korea, you know, how important was this particular image statement for people there?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: George, this was incredibly significant. That photo alone is very symbolic. When you consider, just pulling back a little bit, you consider, a few months ago, we were talking about the possibility of war. President Moon Jae-in was making public statements, explaining why there could never be a second Korean War.

And then fast forward a few months and you have him sitting in the same box with Kim Jong-un's sister; they are shaking hands, as the unified Korean team, North and South Korean athletes are walking out together at the opening ceremony.

You have the North Korean delegation on their feet, Kim Jong-nam, the ceremonial head of state of North Korea with his arms in the air. Kim Yo-jong, Kim Jong-un's sister clapping and shaking the hand of the South Korean president. You can't overstate the symbolism of this kind of photo.

Now of course there is some caution as to what happens next if the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, does go to North Korea, as Paula was mentioning there, what will he get?

He has to come home with something. Certainly there are many in South Korea who are very cynical, who are very skeptical of this kind of invitation. And the fact that North Korea hasn't actually had to give up anything in order to come to the Olympics.

They have managed to dominate the headlines at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, which some South Koreans are disappointed by. This is a Winter Olympics South Korea have been waiting for, for a long time.

Although on the other side, many South Koreans would much rather have this inter-Korean friendship than the kind of tensions that we saw last year. So there's a lot of unknowns at this point but the symbolism is incredibly in those kinds of photos.

HOWELL: Paula Hancocks, stand by as well. I want to direct our viewers' attention to these new images that we're just now seeing come in. These images again showing this Olympic diplomacy, quite frankly, very important meetings that are taking place under the banner of the Olympic Games.

We see the president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, there, meeting with the sister of the North Korean leader. Very important to point out that something like this has not happened in decades.

Let's now bring in again Paula Hancocks.

Because, Paula, here is the thing, we're seeing these two Koreas come together at the same time the United States is there, represented by the U.S. vice president but in fact it seems the United States -- and you tell me from your read here -- has been sidelined as these two Koreas work out a more connection.

HANCOCKS: Just one thing, George. This is extremely significant. Obviously, the fact that a member of the Kim family has come to South Korea, the first time since the Korean War.

But we have very significant moments in the not-too-distant past, 2007, for example, was the last time that North and South Korean leaders met and had an official summit and after which they did sign that peace declaration.

But, of course, that didn't hold for too long. But as to your question about the United States, yes, North Korea is trying to sideline the United States. I don't think anyone's in any doubt about that. In Kim Jong-un's New Year's Day address, he said that it was very important for the two Koreas to solve the issue on the Korean Peninsula themselves, without external interference.

He was clearly talking about the United States at that point and relations between North and the United States have really been dire over the last year. You've had personal attacks between the two leaders, the U.S. president Donald Trump giving personal insults to the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, who's effectively been doing the same through state-run media as well.

So North Korea most definitely is focusing on South Korea. We did hear, though, from the presidential office here in South Korea that President Moon insisted there had to be some reach-out to the United States by North Korea as well in order for North and South Korean relations to improve.

But when you see those images of the North Korean delegation and the South Korean president, they're shaking hands, they are very happy with that united Korean team walking out at the opening ceremony.

And in the photos that we have seen, you see the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence with his wife, sitting down, not part of it. It is a very strong image that, at that point, it was about the two Koreas and the United States, from North Korea's point of view -- [04:10:00]

HANCOCKS: -- certainly, they would like to see them on the sidelines, at least for now, because they believe that South Korea is the way to go forward in order to do whatever they are trying to do at this point -- George.

HOWELL: Paula Hancocks, following the story live from the Olympic Games in PyeongChang and Paula Newton live for us in Seoul, South Korea, a lot to cover here. Thank you so much for your reporting and we'll stay in touch with you of course.

Now moving on to the other major story we're following from the Middle East. Breaking news: Israel says one of its F-16 warplanes has crashed amid massive Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

So far it is not clear what caused this jet to go down. Israel says its military has been going after Iranian targets in Syria but the jet crash in Israeli territory, both pilots survived but one was severely injured.

Israel says its strikes in Syria came after an Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle entered Israeli airspace from Syria. A lot to cover on this as well, all angles covered with our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman, live in Beirut, Libyan.

But first let's start with CNN correspondent Ian Lee following events from the Golan Heights.

It's great to have you with us, Ian.

First, tell us more about the details on this.

What exactly are you learning and what are the responses to it?

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: George, this started in the early morning hours when, like you said, the Israeli military was tracking an Iranian unmanned drone. And they shot it down. They had a helicopter that took it down. They say that intelligence told them that it was Iranian-made.

They said then that the Israeli aircraft, Israeli fighters engaged targets, Iranian targets inside Syria. And as this morning has progressed and those targets -- Damascus isn't that far in that direction.

As the morning has progressed, more and more targets have been hit by Israeli aircraft. We're hearing that 12 targets, including aerial defense batteries and four other Iranian targets were hit in this early morning hour.

Sirens have been going off across the Golan here. Israeli military says that is because of the anti-aircraft fire. A lot of anti- aircraft fire, George, going after the Israeli jets. Now, Syrian state media is saying that more than one jet has been hit although the Israelis are saying only one of their jets have crashed. Again, we need to reiterate that they haven't released why that plane

went down. Was it shot down? Was it a technical malfunction? They are not saying at this time. But this morning it has been very tense up here as this confrontation between the two sides continues -- George.

HOWELL: All right. Ian Lee, live for us, thank you.

Now let's bring in our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, live in Beirut, for some context, Ben, and some background here.

The Israeli military has been quite active along its border.

What more are you hearing?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we've been seeing since the last few years is regular Israeli strikes on targets within Syria, Iran, Syria and otherwise.

What's interesting though is that despite what the Israeli say, obviously the plane was brought down in some form by Syrian fire. And to the best of my memory, I don't think the Syrians have shot down an Israeli plane since the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

This certainly represents something of a qualitative change in terms of the ability of the Syrian forces to bring down an Israeli aircraft, keeping in mind that of course the United States provided Israel with the best weapons it has in its arsenal.

Russia, however, for many years, have been fairly sparing in terms of the quality and the modernity of the equipment they give the Syrians. But this does represent a change.

Now it is important to keep in mind just how dangerous Syria is at the moment. The last 48 hours, for instance, you had American forces in Syria, in the northeast part of the country, engaging Syrian government forces.

You have the Turks who, since January 20th, have been involved in some incursion in the northern part of the country and now this very open fight between Israel and the Syrian as well as the Iranian forces in Southern Syria.

There are lots of tripwires on the ground in Syria. And we shall see whether this stops here or it could escalate. Keep in mind, of course --

[04:15:00]

WEDEMAN: -- the Israelis also have their eyes on Lebanon, where Hezbollah has sent a lot of its forces into Syria to support the regime there. And clearly the presence of Hezbollah forces in Syria, Iranian forces in Syria, in addition to the Russians, represent a very dangerous situation -- George. HOWELL: Our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman, live for

us in Beirut and our international correspondent Ian Lee, live for us in the Golan Heights.

Gentlemen, thank you both. We'll stay in touch with you of course.

This is CNN NEWSROOM. And still ahead this hour, a White House staffer quits in disgrace over allegations of spousal abuse.

So why is the president of the United States showering him with praise?

Plus Democrats in the United States, they responded to a Republican memo with their own memo. But why is the White House saying it can't be made public?

That story ahead as NEWSROOM pushes ahead.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(HEADLINES)

HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

[04:20:00]

HOWELL: Here in the United States, a second White House official has resigned over allegations of domestic abuse, this time it's speechwriter David Sorenson. The resignation comes just days after White House staff secretary Rob Porter abruptly quit after a photo came to light of his then wife with a black eye, a photo that she published.

Yet when asked about it on Friday, the U.S. president seemed to give Porter the benefit of the doubt. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He says he is innocent. And I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he's innocent. So you'll have to talk to him about that but we absolutely wish him well. He did a very good job While he was at the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Sources familiar with the situation say the president blames chief of staff John Kelly for letting the Porter scandal get out of hand. But the White House denies that Kelly offered to resign. The U.S. president is also blocking the release of an intelligence memo written by House Democrat Adam Schiff. The White House says it contains classified and especially sensitive information and has been sent back to the House Intel Committee for changes.

The document was meant to serve as a rebuttal to a Republican memo that was released last week with President Trump's approval. That memo alleged that surveillance abuses happened at the FBI but the FBI says it omitted key information and that the memo was misleading.

Let's talk about this now with Scott Lucas. Scott is a professor of U.S. politics at the University of Birmingham in England, live via Skype with us this hour.

It's great to have you with us, Scott. So this Democratic memo, tell us about the optics from your point of view of the president blocking its release.

SCOTT LUCAS, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: Well, I'm shocked. I mean, absolutely shocked that he would do this. No, not at all. I think we know that the Nunes memo, which is the original memo put out by Trump ally, Devin Nunes, with the support of the White House, was meant to undermine the FBI and to try to limit the Trump investigation. We know that the problem with the Nunes memo is that there were a series of omissions, distortions and even false information, which undermined its credibility.

Now the Democratic rebuttal, 10 pages, would further expose those omissions and would probably further expose the political intent behind releasing a memo, which, of course, includes the White House and includes Trump.

So there's no way that the president nor his advisers want this to come out in full. So the strategy is to say, look, we want further information redacted, that is withheld in the document. We want it reviewed further and therefore they're going to continue to try to stall and hope this goes away.

HOWELL: So you see a stall tactic here playing out. All right. I want to switch now to the other story that's in play. The White House on the defensive in this resignation of this speechwriter, David Sorenson. Now this after the staff secretary, Rob Porter, also resigned.

We're talking about, Scott, here two departures related to the same issue, all within a week.

Is this just coincidence or are we, in fact, starting to see the dam break here?

LUCAS: No. I mean, there's a wider issue here, which, of course, is the whole issue that is embroiling not only the White House, but all sectors of American society about abuse against women. We know that Donald Trump himself faces multiple allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior.

Why the Porter affair is so damaging?

The resignation, first of all, of chief of staff office member Rob Porter is that the White House, we were told by multiple sources, knew the allegations by two ex-wives against Porter since January 2017. But they took no action against Porter; they kept him in post. They kicked it across to the FBI. When the FBI came back in November and said that the allegations were

credible and that therefore Porter could not get full security clearance, the White House still held onto him for another three months.

And it's only been this week after the photo emerged of one of the ex- wives, saying that she had been beaten, that the White House finally gave way.

That appears to look like they were trying to obstruct any process to deal with the Porter situation, which in the wider context of the allegations against Trump, against -- and of his defense of the senatorial candidate, Roy Moore, when he was accused of sexual impropriety in Alabama, it's looking like there's a pattern here.

HOWELL: All right. And also, on the issue of the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, now a source telling CNN that he didn't offer to resign but he did say that he would resign if the president wanted him to.

So just talk about the situation for this very important figure in this White House, given the allegations swirling around him.

LUCAS: Remember that John Kelly, when he was brought in, in the summer, succeeding Reince Priebus, who was forced out by the administration --

[04:25:00]

LUCAS: -- he was supposed to bring order to the White House. He was supposed to stop leaks, make sure that Trump behaved himself. Now the word "scapegoat" is coming into play. And that is Kelly, who badly handled the situation earlier this week. There's no doubt about it, who has been accused by other staff of being misleading in what he did. But it looks like he is going to take the fall.

Here's the issue about Donald Trump, though. Donald Trump does not like to fire people, despite his "Apprentice" reputation. He rather wants to make their jobs uncomfortable, where they decide to leave. That indeed is what happened with Kelly's predecessor, Reince Priebus.

And that is why you got conflicting stories on Friday. Kelly says, look, you know, I'm not going to go. I'm waiting for the president to ask me to go but other White House staff close to Trump saying, you know what, Trump -- Kelly has already offered his resignation, in other words, trying to unsettle his story.

Will Kelly eventually go?

Maybe not. Trump has stepped back from dismissing other officials like attorney general Jeff Sessions before. But it doesn't mean you're going to have a rocky White House going into this next week and amidst ongoing issues about finally trying to get a budget and of course the immigration debate.

HOWELL: Scott Lucas, a lot to talk about there. Thank you so much for adding your perspective and context here, live for us in Birmingham, England, thank you.

LUCAS: Thank you.

HOWELL: Live around the world, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. And still ahead, is it a thaw in relations between North and South Korea?

We look at the developments out of Seoul.

And what they mean for tensions with the West. Plus the first medals of the Winter Olympics have been awarded in women's cross country skiing. We'll tell you who's taking home the gold. Stick around.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:30:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

HOWELL: Live around the world this hour, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you so much for being with us. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you.

(HEADLINES)

HOWELL: We've had some dramatic moments at the PyeongChang Olympics and on the athletics front and the diplomatic front with the apparent warming of relations between North and South Korea.

Is the Kim regime opening, is it warming now to South Korea?

Let's bring in Duyeon Kim. She is a visiting senior research fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum and she joins us now from Seoul, South Korea.

Thank you so much for being with us this hour to talk about this. This is historic. It is significant by so many standards. Here's the thing, though. North Korea not really having to offer anything to be part of these games. Some might say their presence there offers some level of security to make sure that people feel safe, that there's no provocation.

But how important is it for South Korea in this invitation to Pyongyang to bring home something substantive?

DUYEON KIM, KOREAN PENINSULA FUTURE FORUM: Thanks for having me, George, yes. This is significant for South Korea, especially because the current president, Moon Jae-in, he has staked his political legacy and future on inter-Korean reconciliation.

So the North has dangled the biggest bait in front of him at all. It is an inter-Korean summit, an invitation to visit Pyongyang and of course President Moon has accepted essentially that invitation today.

But this is the start of the very beginning of a thawing of relations between the two Koreas and a very delicate and complicated process going forward. The biggest challenge right now, the immediate challenge for President Moon will be can he sell this into a future inter-Korean summit to Washington that wants to keep the hardline stance toward the North?

And in the mid- to longer term, will President Moon be able to achieve lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula?

And what happens to the nuclear issue that's at the center of all these complex, intertwined issues?

And so President Moon really has his work cut out for him and he will want to deliver something very big during his presidential term.

HOWELL: And the issue of oppression in North Korea, the big question there, there's a lot of excitement. There's a lot of hope that -- between North and South Korea that this could led to something.

But is that issue of oppression in North Korea, do you think that's being overlooked here?

KIM: Well, at the Olympics so far, you -- Vice President Pence has tried to highlight that aspect of reality of the North Korean regime during cowntem (ph). But unfortunately the reality is North Korea has stolen the spotlight.

The North has stolen South Korea's thunder. The North has stolen the line whiten global attention and its game plan right now and which we've seen it's tried to present itself as a normal and peace-loving power by the way that has nuclear weapons. But it's trying to convince the world that its nuclear weapons are for defensive purposes.

And so that's why the future process is very delicate. The South has been in this process before. The hope is that the South Korean government will proceed with eyes wide open, without it being --

[04:35:00]

KIM: -- naive because we know where the North Korean traps are along the way. And so President Moon will really have to try, be careful not to prevent -- to prevent repeating past mistakes because we've seen this process before of inter-Korean warming of ties, reconciliation process with alongside simultaneously with a six-party negotiation over the nuclear issue back in the 2000s, early to mid-, late 2000s.

And it's happened before. But the result really has been the North got everything it wanted and to keep its nuclear weapons.

And so it's really complicated. And the South Korean public, I don't think they are as starry-eyed, hopeful as they used to be. I think the South is keeping clear-eyed. It is keeping its eyes on how the Moon administration proceeds and has already been upset with how the South Korean administration has accepted North Korea's participation at PyeongChang. HOWELL: The other question that comes into play, the United States,

is there is a sense that the United States has been sidelined?

We talk about this triangle between North Korea, South Korea and the U.S. Is the U.S. sidelined for the moment and what is the implication there?

KIM: Well, it really depends on how you look at it. I think the North has tried to make that be the optics. But I think the American presence has been very clear, has been felt at PyeongChang, it's just Vice President Pence's absence at the reception, at the opening reception may have caused some question marks.

But really I think Washington will really be trying to continue to step up the pressure on North Korea. And that's where you have opposing forces pulling at each other.

The U.S., for its part, has rightful reasons, understandable reasons to want to maintain a hardline stance because its maximum pressure, particularly its sanctions are aimed to not only bring North Korea to the dialogue table but it's also aimed at building leverage for the U.S. to use at negotiations and for the South, of course, it would want to engage in a more lenient process and the South has its rightful reasons to want to engage in that route as well.

So this is really a delicate balancing act that President Moon will have to play in the weeks and the month going ahead.

Duyeon Kim, thank you so much for taking time with us, to provide your insight. It will be interesting to see where this goes with this new invitation for the South Korean president to visit North Korea. Thank you.

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, we return to PyeongChang for more on the Olympic Games. And we told you about the politics but now it's time to talk about sport. The exciting stuff, of course. Stay with us.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:40:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

HOWELL: Welcome back. Back at the Winter Olympic Games, diplomacy certainly has been front and center in PyeongChang, South Korea, but sporting events are certainly underway after Friday's dazzling opening ceremony. Look at that.

CNN "WORLD SPORT's" Amanda Davies is following the story, live in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Amanda, good to have you.

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, George. Yes, the medals have started being handed out. And I had a conversation on the plane over the way, on the way over here, about the unpredictability of the Winter Olympics compared to the Summer Games, how it's much, much harder to guarantee success in these sports, compared to their summer counterparts.

But the first medal event played out very much as predicted. The ladies' cross country skiathlon, it was a head to head battle between Charlotte Kalla of Sweden and the Iron Lady, Marit Bjoergen of Norway, a six-time Olympic gold medalist. In the end, it was Kalla who had the extra burst of pace when it mattered. The only surprise really was the dominance of her win as she turned her silver from Sochi into gold here in PyeongChang. So that's now three Olympic Games, three golds and three silvers for her but she has got some way to go still to catch the medal total of 37-year-old Bjoergen, a name we've gotten to know very well over the last few Winter Olympics.

And history was made today, her silver medal making her the most decorated female Winter Olympian of all time. It was her 11th medal overall and she is actually aiming for two more over the next few weeks.

But as things stand this evening, the focus will shift away from the medals across to the women's ice hockey venue, from North and South Korea walking together under that unified flag at the opening ceremony to here on Saturday, going a massive step further than that, playing together alongside each other in the first-ever unified Korea Olympic team.

And you get a sense of just how big a deal it is. It's definitely not the norm that a women's hockey match, if reports are to be believed, would be attended by the presidents of South Korea as well as the representatives from across the border in the North. It's Korea against Switzerland.

The Swiss normally play in front of 100 fans, they say, for their matches. This has become a 6,000-seater sellout and it's a game that will draw the eyes of the world. But it's one where even though it's taking part know that what happens on the ice could play a much bigger role in terms of the bigger picture -- George.

HOWELL: Indeed. A lot, certainly in these games. Thank you so much, Amanda Davies, live for us in PyeongChang. We'll stay in touch with you.

From the mountains to the coast, preparing for these venues for the Winter Olympics has taken billions of dollars and it's taken years of work. CNN "WORLD SPORT's" Christina Macfarlane takes us on a tour.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After seven years of preparation and $10 billion spent, a record 92 nations have arrived in PyeongChang for the Winter Olympics. Temperatures may be dropping but expectation is building. So what does South Korea's first-ever Winter Games have in store?

Let's find out.

MACFARLANE (voice-over): The games are spread across two key locations, the Gangnam coastal cluster and the PyeongChang mountain region.

In total, there will be 10 different events underway here in the mountains but behind me will surely be one of the biggest draws, it's the Olympic downhill, it's where athletes like Norway's Axl Spindle (ph) and USA's Lindsey Vonn will race for their last chance at Olympic downhill gold.

[04:45:00]

MACFARLANE (voice-over): And let's not forget the iconic ski jump, which soars across the Alpensia media village. This $10.5 million venue will also play host to one of the game's newest events, the snowboard big air; 98 percent of the snow here is actually artificial. That is because with the weather, it is just too cold for natural snow to fall.

But fake snow does have some perks. In some cases, the athletes actually prefer it because it keeps the conditions more consistent. And it can also be used to stockpile for fun.

Like here in the sand boats (ph).

Athletes, young fans and even big kids all taking time to chill out. Once you've had your fill of the mountains, it is time to hit the coast.

It is here that the figure skating and the ice hockey will take center stage as it so often does at the Winter Olympics. But particularly this year, with the North Korean pair who are the only athletes to have qualified from their country automatically, will take to the ice behind me here in what will be their first Winter Games.

Emotions are also likely to run high in this stadium, where the United States and Canada will undoubtedly go head to head once again in one of ice hockey's fiercest rivalries.

And the unified Korea women's ice hockey team will compete for the first time in Olympic history.

After 17 days of intense competition, when a record 102 medals will have been won, it will all conclude at the PyeongChang Olympic stadium and the closing ceremony. Every Winter Games has had its iconic moment.

What or who will set these games alight?

We'll have to wait and see -- Christina Macfarlane, CNN, PyeongChang.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOWELL: Christina, thank you so much.

Now in PyeongChang, it's hard to tell which is tougher, the competition there or the cold weather.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HOWELL: Still ahead here, a portrait of the artist as a man still hard at work. An interview with David Hockney, whose colorful work is currently brightening the halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:50:00]

(HEADLINES)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

HOWELL: It is not every man who lives to see two retrospectives of his life's work. But David Hockney is not every man. He is one of the world's most popular, vibrant artists. And at 80 years old, when he has a brush in hand, he's still in his prime. CNN's Nick Glass takes an exclusive look at life through David Hockney's eyes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID HOCKNEY, ARTIST: I've always loved looking. I've always loved looking. When I could go on the Bradford buses on my own, I used to run right upstairs, run to the front of the buses, so you could see more. You could see more.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

NICK GLASS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The irrepressible David Hockney, in his studio in the Hollywood hills, at 80, interviews are getting ever rarer. Hockney has been looking at the world and at us unblinkingly for over 60 years now, the gaze has always been intense.

This is you at 16.

HOCKNEY: 17 years old.

GLASS: I don't suppose you have a favorite painting, do you?

HOCKNEY: No. The last one I'm doing, yes.

GLASS (voice-over): This has been a momentous 18 months or so for Hockney. The traveling retrospective already seen by well over a million people in London and Paris and now at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

HOCKNEY: I thought it was a marvelous show, actually. I realized, well, it is the last -- [04:55:00]

HOCKNEY: -- time this will be done in my lifetime I'm sure.

I came to California in 1964 when nobody knew me. And I preferred that. I've always been running away a bit from London anyway.

GLASS (voice-over): The sunlight, the boys and the swimming pools. Some of his best-known perhaps from the '60s and '70s, including a bigger splash.

HOCKNEY: It was painted with small brushes, all little lines, which I thought was rather amusing. I could have just done it like that but I thought, no, I won't. I'll do it painstakingly.

GLASS (voice-over): Hockney has always been happy to embrace new technology, including, most recently, the iPad.

HOCKNEY: Well, I live in the now. You paint in the now. And it is always now anyway.

GLASS (voice-over): David Hockney remains, as everybody knows, a committed smoker. Equally, he is still obsessively, joyously painting away.

HOCKNEY: I feel 30 when I'm in the studio. Well, you want to be 30, don't you, if you are 80. So I come in the studio every day and work because then I feel 30.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: David Hockney, certainly still in his prime.

Thank you so much for being with us as well for CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Let's reboot and reload for our next hour of CNN NEWSROOM and invite our viewers in the United States as well. Stand by.