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North and South Korea Vow to End Korean War at Historic Meeting; President Trump Says U.S. Should be Proud After Meeting between North and South Korea; Interview with Richard Haass; Aired 9- 9:30a ET

Aired April 27, 2018 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:17] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Jim Sciutto, in today for John and Poppy.

Peace, prosperity and unification of the Korean peninsula. A joint declaration capping a potentially historic and richly symbolic summit of the North and South Korean leaders. What the meeting was not, however, full of details, which Kim Jong-un and his Southern counterpart Moon Jae-in seemed deliberately to have left for another day.

Hours after Kim took one small step across the Military Demarcation Line into the southern half of the DMZ, and Moon reciprocated, the two pledged complete denuclearization and to pursue a formal end to the Korean War.

At least in public, the two did not address an even more historic summit perhaps just a month or so away, that between Kim Jong-un and President Trump.

And we have it all covered this morning, this hour with live reporters from Tokyo to Washington. We begin, though, with CNN's Paula Hancocks. She is right near the DMZ, where this moment took place.

Paula, North and South Korean leaders have met before. Is the feeling there that this time is different?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, there is certainly optimism in this country, especially after what we saw today. The optics of this summit between Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in were something else. Really quite remarkable. Especially when you consider how tense things were just a matter of months ago.

So what we saw today was really two leaders who have never met before, who have not spoken to each other before, who are leaders of countries technically still at war, who were building some kind of a relationship.

You saw right from the get-go both were keen to try and make this look as though they were getting on. They were building some rapport. You saw them making jokes. At the end of the day, when they had a light show outside the Peace House at the DMZ, the two men were even holding hands. So, clearly, they have made some kind of a connection. And that is

key because going forward they are going to have some tremendously difficult discussions, difficult decisions to make. So they need to have some kind of relationship. It was quite bizarre at times, though, when you step back and you saw the two together because one is one of the most prolific human rights abusers in the world and the other one is a former human rights activist and a former human rights lawyer. So certainly seeing the two embracing and willing to push forward, saying that they are learning to trust each other, was quite a remarkable development.

But as you say, it was light on details. We saw the signing of the declaration. The fact that they will push to end the Korean War, along with the U.S. and China at some point during this year. We know that Moon Jae-in is going to go to Pyongyang in the fall as well to meet the North Korean leader again.

But when it came to denuclearization, they fell back on a stock phrase, saying that they agreed to work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We have heard that before. We were hoping for more details. We were hoping to find out what sort of concessions Kim Jong-un wanted for agreeing to give up his nuclear weapons. But we really didn't see that kind of detail.

What today was, it was about optics. It was about showing that these two leaders can work together. And that is certainly the way that the South Koreans would like us to see it. I think from their point of view, they would certainly see this as a success.

One interesting thing we did hear from Kim Jong-un during this summit was he said that this agreement was just the tip of the iceberg -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: A remarkable step. The question, what are the next steps?

Paula Hancocks there near the Demilitarized Zone.

This morning at the White House, the president is praising the historic meeting between the Koreas claiming that the U.S., should be, quote, "proud" of the, quote, "good things" that are happening.

CNN's Abby Phillip is live at the White House.

Abby, you saw the president on Twitter this morning claiming something of a victory.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. This is a big week for President Trump. It's been building up for quite some time now. This morning he praised what you saw in those images last night and this morning, what he is calling progress on the peninsula.

Here is what he wrote. "After a furious year of missile launches and nuclear testing, an historic meeting between North and South Korea is taking place. Good things are happening, but only time will tell." And then he followed up with a second tweeting saying, "The Korean War to end. The United States and all of its great people should be very proud of what is taking place right now in Korea."

Now President Trump has said very little of detail about, you know, what exactly he wants to see come out of this, but he's been pushing forward to this prospective meeting between him and Kim Jong-un, something that would be quite historic in nature. A group of reporters just a few moments ago spoke to White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway about the president's reaction to this meeting and she noted and reiterated that the meeting is only going to happen if, she said, the conditions are right.

[09:05:09] What those conditions are we still don't know. And secondly, the White House finally got its new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed yesterday by the Senate. He is now hitting the ground running. But just a few weeks ago, he had a secret meeting with Kim Jong-un in North Korea that the White House now believes had set the stage for what we are seeing on the peninsula.

That being said, again, there is a lot that is left unsaid here. But clearly President Trump thinks that this is moving into the right direction. And if everything works out well, he wants to have that sit-down. No decisions yet have been made, however, about where and exactly when it might take place -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: So in just a few hours President Trump welcoming the German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the White House. That, of course, about another nuclear deal, the Iran deal. She's here in Washington in effect to try to convince the president to say in?

PHILLIP: That's right. She's coming just days after the French President Emmanuel Macron was here in Washington for a lot of pomp and circumstance for an official state visit. This visit is going to be much more sober in nature. Merkel is following up on Macron, trying to convince President Trump to not back out directly from this nuclear deal. They're going to have a bilateral meeting, a working lunch and then a joint press conference.

But, you know, Jim, it seems very much that Europeans are preparing for the inevitable, which is that President Trump wants to pull out of this deal and he likely will. It remains to be seen what more progress Merkel can get out of President Trump, especially considering that their relationship is not nearly as warm as his was with Emmanuel Macron, who was here just earlier this week, Jim.

SCIUTTO: The possibility of pulling out of one nuclear deal while pursuing another one. North Korea.

Abby Phillip, thanks very much.

Joining me now, Richard Haass. He is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Richard, thanks very much for taking the time this morning.

RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Good to see you, Jim. SCIUTTO: So you have an enormous amount of experience with this

issue. You look at events this morning in -- at the demilitarized zone. Do you see real progress, substantive progress there?

HAASS: Well, I thought the president got it about right in his tweet, that good things are happening and we're seeing things that, quite honestly, I didn't expect to see, certainly not now, this soon, but as the president also said, only time will tell. And that's a cliche, but every once in awhile, cliches are true. And this is one of those times. So a lot of words were put out there. And the challenge is going to be to turn the rhetoric into reality. And history would suggest that's an enormous challenge.

SCIUTTO: Do you believe that the president's threats to North Korea of military action, in addition to the maximum economic pressure they've been putting on? Do you give the president and his policy credit for getting the two sides to where they are now?

HAASS: It's quite possible that it had to do with the threats and that either sobered up China or North Korea. Obviously the sanctions had a -- one would think would have an impact. On the negative side, what also might have had an impact is the fact that North Korea now has reached a state of advance with its nuclear weapons and with its ballistic missiles that it might feel it's accomplished what it needed to accomplish and can negotiate from a position of strength with no intention of giving up those nuclear weapons.

SCIUTTO: I've spoken to folks in the administration involved in this process here. And question I've asked them, and I'm curious what your view is, what does each side define as denuclearization? Is it correct to say that the U.S., the West, looks at it as zero nukes in North Korea, but North Korea looks at it more as a freeze, to sort of lock in where they are and go no further?

HAASS: I think there's two big questions and it is the big one. One is what's the definition of denuclearization. Is it getting rid of all existing weapons? Is it getting rid of the capacity to make weapons? Is it getting rid of all nuclear materials? So one question is simply, how far does it go? Then the other bigger question to me is, what would North Korea ask in exchange? Just say they put on the table, well, we're willing to get rid of all of our nuclear weapons but only if you end the alliance with South Korea or you do something about your own nuclear weapons program.

So, again, denuclearization is, first of all, incredibly vague. And two, it's going to be -- it's conditional. And we have to find out what those conditions are.

SCIUTTO: Do you believe the U.S. should be open to allowing North Korea to maintain some nuclear program if they get other assurances?

HAASS: Again, it depends to me on what we would get for it. What would be -- would they do about their missiles? What would they do about their testing? What would they do about their conventional military threat? So quite possibly. I think the idea of demanding that this be an all or nothing agreement

quite possibly leads us with nothing and I don't like those options at that point. So we ought to be open to something less than everything.

Sometimes in diplomacy, certainly as an interim step, you've got to be willing to take half or 3/4 of a loaf not to solve a problem but to keep it from getting worse.

[09:10:07] SCIUTTO: Victor Cha who, as you know, was going to be the president's ambassador to South Korea before he was removed. He's made the point of the danger of high expectations. That with these continuing disagreements that you mentioned there, including on denuclearization, you can have a lot of expectations, a lot of hope getting there, but then you might -- if you don't resolve those issues, kind of fall off a cliff on the other side and set up the prospect for even greater danger of military conflict. Do you think that that's a fair point?

HAASS: It does. And it is. And the expectations, however high they were yesterday, are now 10 times that today. And sure, the danger is if you set the standard so high about what success would require, and if you can't meet it, then a lot of people are going to say, well, we tried diplomacy, that didn't work. And now we have to try something else that might include military force. And, again, it's why I'm wary of defining denuclearization or success on terms that North Korea is unlikely to be prepared to meet.

SCIUTTO: Richard Haass, CFR, thanks very much for joining us.

HAASS: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's been another wild week for the Trump administration. But is a cloud of Cabinet chaos overshadowing a major week for diplomacy?

Plus, the final House Intelligence reports on Russian meddling are in, they're done, but it looks like we're going to learn a lot less than we thought. Both Democrats and Republicans say they have been over- classified.

And the fall -- the downfall of America's dad. Now that Bill Cosby has been convicted of sexual assault, what happens next?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:15:51]

SCIUTTO: Welcome back. It has been a major week for the White House. Diplomacy certainly, but also chaos in the cabinet, and a presidential interview that left some White House aides wincing.

Here to discuss, national political reporter for "Real Clear Politics," Caitlin Huey-Burns, and CNN political analyst, Molly Ball. Quite a moment yesterday on "Fox & Friends" with the president.

But there are some real issues for him in the cabinet yet again. First of all, on the VA, I mean, he's got to find another pick and quickly, Molly Ball, after the Jackson nomination fell through.

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He does. And I think what happened with the Jackson nomination makes it more difficult to find someone who is qualified. It's such an important agency, such an important area, not just politically, but substantively. To find someone who is capable of doing that is a heavy lift, especially when a lot of qualified people have felt bruised by the process of being nominated to something by the Trump administration.

SCIUTTO: No question. And, Caitlyn, listen, some of this is the way that Washington has always been. The nomination process is no fun. It's arguably worse now, but on the flip side. There was really no vetting for this. Jackson not necessarily a natural pick because this is an enormous organization to run with some serious problems. How much of this falls on the White House?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "REALCLEARPOLITICS": Well, certainly. I mean, it was, you know, Shulkin, of course, the former VA secretary, was in the hot seat for a long time. It was well-known that he was kind of on his way out eventually.

So, the White House did have a lot of time, you would presume, to pick a replacement who was, you know, could go through the process unscathed. What's interesting about this scenario versus others, though, is that the president is also facing vacancies in his cabinet, right?

Getting Pompeo alone through the confirmation process, as we saw over the past week, he was just confirmed as secretary of state yesterday, shows how difficult this process is going to be for anybody he picks.

That leads in to question, you know, whether he keeps someone like Pruitt in EPA, despite all the chaos surrounding him, despite all of the criticisms because getting someone through this process is no sure bet, especially with the vetting issues on top of it.

SCIUTTO: Watching Pruitt on the Hill yesterday, Molly Ball, it wasn't exactly the smoothest. There were instances there where it looked like he had misled with previous comments, including on what he knew about pay raises. CNN's reporting is that Pruitt feels that the White House may be not backing him as strongly anymore. What's your understanding? Are they going to stick with him?

BALL: At this point, my feeling is that he's sort of -- he's on probation. The White House doesn't want any new surprises from me, but the fact -- I think the storm has passed for him in some regards.

The hearing, he didn't necessarily do himself any favors, but so far, you know, the president has defended him, the White House has defended him. As Caitlin was saying, they don't have a huge appetite for more vacancies, more job openings, trying to get more people through the process.

At this point they seem to be sticking with him, but I think anybody in this cabinet feels like they're walking on egg shells all the time. Probably Scott Pruitt more than most. SCIUTTO: Listen, he's a hero for some on the right for having rolled back so many environmental regulations. He's a target for people on the other side. So, Ronny Jackson, no longer the VA pick, but he still has his job.

There are still hard questions about how he ran the medical clinic in the White House. CNN is going to have new reporting from M.J. Lee later this morning, but basically handing out medication, it seemed, without really, we use the word vetting, but without any vetting of who it was going to and the proper diagnosis for that medication.

HUEY-BURNS: Right, exactly. Still a lot of questions about his behavior. Interestingly enough, yesterday when the White House announced the withdrawal, Sarah Sanders came out immediately and said Ronny Jackson is still at his job.

He reported to work that morning. He continues to have the confidence of the president in that role. Yesterday, the president also talked at length about the way in which he thinks that Ronny Jackson got an unfair shake.

[09:20:03] And what's interesting about this, though, is that you did have the president going after Jon Tester, of course, that Democrat from Montana, who is the vice chair of the committee relevant to this. Kind of calling this, essentially trying to say that this was all politically motivated.

So, kind of questioning the credibility of some of these allegations made anonymously, of course. So, you're seeing that kind of tug-of- war here, but still a lot of questions remain about whether and how he keeps this position.

SCIUTTO: I love when you hear that on the Hill. Charges from one party or the other about how the other party is injecting politics into this process. Imagine that. Well, the president has just tweeted. It's a typical morning in America.

This one about Kanye West. He tweeted following, "Kanye West has performed a great service to the black community. Big things are happening, and eyes are being opened for the first time in decades. Legacy stuff!, exclamation point. Thank you also to Chance and Dr. Darryl Scott. They really get it. Lowest black and Hispanic unemployment in history."

This has been a moment for the president because he has claimed for some time that he has served the black community in effect, better than Obama did, better than the Democrats because the economy is doing well. He found himself an unlikely supporter in Kanye West this week.

BALL: Yes, I mean, it has been -- the political development this week that I least expected was that we would be seeing not only a Trump/Macron bromance, but now a Trump/Kanye bromance. Of course, they liked each other for a long time and Kanye went to Trump Tower back during the transition.

As you know, Kanye is an eccentric, artist. A lot of voices coming out and saying he doesn't necessarily speak for the African-American community writ large in this regard. As the president said, it sparked a larger debate.

And you know, for a lot of other Republicans, they're not always excited to see the president wade into racial politics and reignite some of those debates that can be so divisive in which he's been so divisive.

SCIUTTO: You know, this week you have all these issues. You have trouble in the cabinet. You have the president tweeting about Kanye West, but there are major diplomatic decisions hanging over this president. You've got the North Korea progress today. Angela Merkel is here to try to save the Iran nuclear deal. Where is the president focusing this week?

HUEY-BURNS: Well, I mean, the tweets were kind of all over the place this morning. And what's interesting, too, is that the president is already seeming to kind of get close to declaring victory in a way on North and South Korea.

Saying the war is over, at least close to it. You know, we can't underestimate how much this president, at least in public comments, seems to be driven by doing things that his predecessors couldn't do or wouldn't do. For some reason, he mentioned that a couple of times yesterday.

So, I think the Korea issue today is a big deal for him and a lot of people are going to be talking about it and I think he's going to be paying very close attention to how people are talking about that as well.

SCIUTTO: No question. Caitlin, Molly, thanks very much.

Well, a historic summit for the Korean Peninsula, but will it be all talk and no action? That's the key question. World leaders are now weighing in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:27:38]

SCIUTTO: The historic summit between North and South Korea is drawing praise from across the globe, but some world leaders are warning that there is plenty of work left to do. We are covering this story from across Asia.

Let's start in Tokyo with CNN's Anna Stewart. Anna, Japan's prime minister saying he's cautiously optimistic today. Japan certainly a central player to this. They're very close to North Korea. How real is their optimism there?

ANNA STEWART, CNN JOURNALIST: Yes, I mean, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today said he welcomes these discussions, but then he said he looks forward to seeing some concrete acts and he'll be keeping an eye on North Korea's conduct going forward. So, certainly still a lot of caution there. Now, essentially what Japan wants is concrete, verifiable action before any pressure is lifted. Its biggest fear is that the U.S. president will want to score a victory here and pressure will be lifted in North Korea too early.

That's ultimately what got North Korea to the table in the first place. Japan doesn't just want denuclearization, Jim, it wants to have a ban on short and medium-range missiles, just not ICBMs, but these shorter-range missiles which are still a huge threat to Japan.

It also wants the return of Japanese abductees held in North Korea for decades. Many of the families of these abductees have said until the family members, their loved ones are back in the country in their arms, they don't want to see the stance change on North Korea at all.

Japan is very skeptical at this stage. The optics were good. The sounds were good. Now it's time for some action.

SCIUTTO: No question. Of course, Japan within range of those short and medium-range missiles, so very much top of their list. Anna Stewart in Tokyo, thanks very much.

CNN's Matt Rivers joining us now from Beijing. Matt, President Trump is praising the Chinese president for his help with North Korea. I suppose one of the headlines today is China sort of reinserting itself into this peace process.

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they're going to want a place at the table moving forward. That's been the concern in the halls of power here in Beijing, is that as these negotiations happen just between the North and the South, what might happen when President Trump meets with Kim Jong-un?

China is not invited to either of those parties, and so they've been taking steps over the last several weeks. You saw Kim Jong-un come here to Beijing. China wants to make sure that the North understands that they have that long relationship and their interests need to be served.

But in terms of what the president tweeted, he tweeted out, "Please do not forget the great help that my good, President Xi of China, has given to the United States particularly at the border of North Korea with --