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CNN NEWSROOM

Kim Jong-un Vows to Shutter Nuclear Test Site; President Snubs Reporters, Holds Campaign Rally; White House Correspondents' Dinner. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired April 29, 2018 - 02:00   ET

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


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CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Thank you for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier here in Atlanta and CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

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VANIER: We start with this breaking news out of the Korean Peninsula. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un says his country's main nuclear test site will be shut down next month.

And foreign experts as well as journalists will be invited into North Korea to ensure the transparency of the closure. Mr. Kim also says that he is not the kind of person to fire nuclear weapons at South Korea or the United States.

All of this comes according to a South Korean official. Mr. Kim reportedly made the comments at the landmark summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday. At that meeting, the two leaders signed a declaration, vowing to denuclearize informally and formally end the Korean War.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Seoul, South Korea.

Paula, how significant is the -- this nuclear test site that Kim Jong- un says he's shutting down?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Cyril, this is the Punggye-ri test site, which is in the northeast of the of the country. It's very significant. It's where the last six nuclear tests have actually taken place.

So he did say, Kim Jong-un previously, that he was going to stop testing and there was no need for this site at this point. But this is going one step further, according to the Blue House, that he has said that he will shut it down by May.

He also mentioned a report that had been out from Chinese geologists that we have reported on, saying that the site was pretty much obsolete anyway because of the amount of tests that have been part of it, had collapsed. Now Kim Jong-un, according to this Blue House official, said that

that simply was not true and they had two bigger tunnels and that it was still in very good condition but they were still going to shut that site down.

As you say, also saying they were going to invite experts and journalists for full transparency, not clear if that is for the shutting down itself or whether that would be after the event.

But certainly we had some interesting insights today from the Blue House, the other thing that really stuck out, the fact that that he had said the U.S., though inherently hostile to North Korea, will get to know, once our talks begin, that I am not the kind of person who will use nuclear weapons against the South or the U.S. across the Pacific.

Now this raised some eyebrows because for the past few years, North Korean state-run media, KCNA, has been threatening exactly that. Just a year ago North Korea threatened to turn Seoul in terms of a sea of flames. They have made videos even, quite low quality but they have made videos pretending that they are obliterating Washington in a nuclear attack.

So certainly there have been the threats and they have been there for some time, not just with Kim Jong-un but his father as well, the late Kim Jung-il. So these threats have been around for decades.

They're saying that he is not the sort of person who would carry out a nuclear attack on the United States. No one really thought that he would but certainly the threat had always been there -- Cyril.

VANIER: Paula, every few days, we are getting another gesture of goodwill, another olive branch from North Korea. It seems to me Kim Jong-un is the one who is really dictating the tempo for all of this.

HANCOCKS: Absolutely. And it's been noted by many experts that this has also been the way it has been done in the past, with his father, for example. There have been two previous summits in 2000 and 2007 and experts point out the fact that it's quite often after very high tensions, then the North Koreans turn around and start to make concessions and say, OK, let us talk.

In the past it has been to try and extract financial aid. This time around we understand that Kim Jong-un has said himself, in fact, that he wants to turn his attention to the economy and away from nuclear.

So there is a lot of skepticism about what is happening at this point. There's certainly expectation that this has been driven in large part by Kim Jong-un. If he hadn't said on January 1st in his New Year's address, I am willing to send people to the Olympics from North Korea, I am willing to talk to South Korea, then quickly none of this would have happened.

It had to take Kim Jong-un either changing his mind or whether this was part of a bigger plan and this was the intention, to open up and to send delegations to the Winter Olympics in South Korea. We simply don't know.

But it's a fair point to make that set that Kim Jong-un has been driving a fair bit of this although President Moon Jae-in has been insisting since he came to power last year that he wanted this to happen as well -- Cyril.

VANIER: Yes, he certainly did allow and did create that context, that favorable context for the North Korean leader to be doing this. So some credit needs to be given to the South Korean President --

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VANIER: -- as well. Reporting live from the South Korean capital, Paula Hancocks, thank you very much.

U.S. president Donald Trump spoke before a crowd of supporters in Washington Saturday night but not Washington, D.C.; Washington Township, Michigan; that is near Detroit.

And this wasn't just any other night. He held the rally at the same time as the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner, which he snubbed for the second year running. During his rally the president took aim at his favorite targets. That includes the media, that includes Democrats.

He also touted his role in North Korean diplomacy and blasted the Russia investigation, saying that the Russian lawyer at that Trump Tower with his campaign officials is now changing her story in order to cause chaos in the United States.

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DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Have you heard about the lawyer?

For a year, a woman lawyer, she was like, oh, I know nothing, know -- now all of a sudden, she supposedly is involved with government.

You know why?

If she did that, because Putin and the group said, you know, this Trump is killing us.

Why don't you say that you are involved with government so that we can go and make their life in the United States even more chaotic?

Look at what's happened. Look at how these politicians have fallen for this junk, Russian collusion. Give me a break.

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VANIER: But that was not all the president talked about. Our Boris Sanchez travels with Donald Trump. This is what he filed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president kicked off his event here in Washington Township, Michigan, by noting that he was invited to another event in Washington, D.C., alluding to the White House Correspondents' Dinner, but saying that he would rather be here among his supporters.

The president calling that event "phony" and saying that he did not want to sit there and smile as he was being insulted.

The president also took aim at a number of his favorite targets, including the media and certain Democrats, like Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and the governor of California, Jerry Brown, before targeting Montana senator Jon Tester.

Of course, Tester is the ranking Democrat on the Veterans Affairs Committee and he had some role in sinking the president's nominee, Ronny Jackson, for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The president at one point seemed to threaten Tester. Listen to what he said during his speech.

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TRUMP: Senator Jon Tester of a really great place, Montana, who voted by the way in favor of sanctuary cities, who's weak on the border, didn't vote for tax cuts.

He took a gentleman, who is a truly high-quality human being, and what they said about him, what they said about this great American doctor, Ronny Jackson, an admiral in the Navy and Tester started throwing out things that he's heard.

Well, I know things about Tester that I could say, too. And if I said them, he would never be elected again.

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SANCHEZ: The president calling what Jon Tester did "a disgrace."

One other noteworthy moment, President Trump accusing Vladimir Putin of planting Natalia Veselnitskaya, that attorney that was in a meeting at Trump Tower in June of 2016 with Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner among others, saying that Putin intentionally had her declare that she was an informant to the Kremlin this week in order to sow chaos within the United States.

One of a number of claims by President Trump during his speech here. He also talked about immigration and trade, a number of his favorite topics. And the crowd ate it all up to different chants of "Build the wall" and at one point also chanting, "Nobel, Nobel," suggesting that the president should win the Nobel Peace Prize for the ongoing talks between North and South Korea, moving toward denuclearization. The president also saying that he looks forward to the potential meeting between him and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, traveling with the president in Washington Township, Michigan.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VANIER: And back to that White House Correspondents' Dinner, which U.S. presidents have long attended to show their support for a free press. President Trump, who has labeled the media "the enemy of the American people," skipped the event again this year.

The gala supports student journalists and honors the best of the White House press corps. Comedian Michelle Wolf was this year's headliner and her remarks ranged from humorous to raw. And her jokes were met with laughs, gasps and sometimes awkward silence.

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MICHELLE WOLF, COMEDIAN: It's kind of crazy that the Trump campaign was in contact with Russia when the Hillary campaign wasn't even in contact with Michigan.

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WOLF: It's a direct flight. It's so close.

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WOLF: Of course, Trump isn't here, if you haven't noticed. He's not here. And I know, I know I would drag him here myself but it turns out the President of the United States is the one pussy you're not allowed --

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WOLF: -- to grab.

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WOLF: He said it first, yes. He did. Remember?

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VANIER: Wolf also mocked Democrats as well as media outlets and that includes us here at CNN. I cannot think why. Among her other targets, two White House officials who attended the event this year, press secretary Sarah Sanders, was ashen-faced when she was being made fun of, and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway.

Former White House press Sean Spicer was also at the dinner and he tweeted, it was a disgrace.

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VANIER: Thank you for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier at the CNN Center. "MARKETPLACE AFRICA" starts now.