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Taliban React After Trump Scraps Talks; 70,000 Homeless After Dorian; A New Week For Boris Johnson After Political Turmoil; Four Missing After Cargo Ship Capsizes, Catches Fire; U.S. Military Projects Losing Funding to Trump's Wall; Experts: Recent North Korean Missile Tests Show Enhanced Capabilities. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired September 9, 2019 - 00:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN NEWSROOM: The Taliban slammed the U.S. president for calling off peace talks after he invited leaders from the group to the United States, days before the Anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

70,000 people are homeless in the Bahamas and at least 45 are now confirmed dead as the island struggles with the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. We hear from someone who has seen the devastation.

Also, no to no deal, and no early election. The British prime minister finds himself in a major blind over Brexit after one turbulent week. We'll break it down here this hour.

Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us. I'm Natalie Allen at CNN Center in Atlanta and this is CNN Newsroom.

Thanks again for joining us. Our top story, Afghan peace talks are on hold. The U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo stresses his country is still interested in striking a deal with the Taliban. President Donald Trump announced he was canceling a secret Camp David meeting with Taliban leaders after a Taliban attack killed an American soldier on Thursday. Pompeo says the militant group will have to meet conditions before talks resume with the United States, including reducing violence and meeting with Afghan leaders.

He told CNN's Jake Tapper, the U.S. will keep up pressure on the Taliban.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: The American people should know we're going to defend American national interests. We're going to be tough and making sure that we put pressure on all the powers, all the risks, not just the Taliban but ISIS that's there in Afghanistan as well.

President Trump will always protect Americans and the American interests. And one of the ways we try to do that is to take down the violence levels in Afghanistan so that we can rebalance. We have got challenges from terrorism not just in Afghanistan, Jake, as you well know.

We have to make sure we have the right force levels, he right force postures, the right people each and every place so that we're protecting America's national security everywhere, not just in Afghanistan.


ALLEN: in a response, the Taliban said, this will harm America more than anyone else. We called for dialog 20 years earlier and maintained the same stance today and believe America shall return to this position also.

For more on this, CNN's Nathan Hodge joins us now from Moscow. A very different sounding tone from the Taliban. Hello, Nathan.

NATHAN HODGE, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Natalie, yes, very different tones from both sides. And over the past several months, President Trump's special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has been holding talks in the Gulf Emirates of Qatar with representatives of the Taliban negotiating team.

And last week, Khalilzad had announced that a preliminary deal or deal, in principle, had been reached for an initial withdrawal of a certain number of U.S. troops, along with some guarantees from the Taliban side.

Now, the one thing that is not taking part in those talks is the Afghan government. The Afghan government has been essentially sidelined. They are not taking part. These talks in Qatar are not part of a general agreement that's going to bring together all of the warring parties inside of Afghanistan's. And so there's been a lot of consternation and cobble in the Afghan capital about what exactly this deal might have meant.

So, certainly, we're now starting to see reactions from the Afghan government to the news that these talks are now on hold. And here's what Sediq Sediqqi, the spokesperson for the Afghan president, had to say about that.


SEDIQ SEDIQQI, AFGHAN PRESIDENT'S SPOKESPERSON: Any talk or any talks that does not guarantee an end to Taliban violence will be meaningless to continue. So our position has been very strong and firm in that. The president has been very clear in the past -- so many months to see how we can actually end this violence.

So if the Taliban are not committed, if there is contradiction in what they say and what they do in Afghanistan, so we would not only doubt that process but we will raise concerns about that process, like the people have already done that.


HODGE: So, Natalie, there's a lot of concern as Sediq Sediqqi, the Afghan spokesperson, has expressed. And, certainly in Afghanistan, I think that there is a larger question about what this negotiating process is going to mean for the country.

Clearly, Donald Trump has made clear that he'd like to see withdrawal of U.S. troops, [00:05:00] although he's now called off or put on hold this meeting. And, certainly, in Afghanistan, the war, which has been going on for 40 years now, since the Soviet invasion in 1979, has a lot of unresolved issues that need to be addressed in some kind of dialog amongst Afghans.

So what we're talking about here are multiple processes that are happening in order for both a U.S. withdrawal to occur, that is the withdrawal of U.S. troops, as well as a wider peace deal that will bring together all of the different warring parties inside of Afghanistan. And that is still, at this stage, quite distant. Natalie?

ALLEN: Right. A peace deal, perhaps may be very challenging, a withdrawal deal, maybe something can break there.

All right, Nathan Hodge for us, thank you so much, Nathan.

Well, critics of a U.S./Taliban peace deal say it would offer the Taliban too many concessions while giving the U.S. little in return. CNN traveled to Taliban-controlled territory in February and spent 36 hours with the militant group. Here's an excerpt of Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward's report.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We start out by asking about the Taliban's brutal tactics, and the U.S. concern that they could once again offer safe haven to terrorists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whether it's the Americans or ISIS, no foreign forces will be allowed in the country once we start ruling Afghanistan.

WARD: Are there real efforts being made to stop killing civilians?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those responsible for civilian casualties are the ones who came with their aircrafts, artillery, B-52 and heavy weaponry.

WARD: In reality, the Taliban is responsible for thousands of civilian deaths in the last three years alone.

And what about the suicide bombings at polling stations, for example? These kill many civilians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We deny this. This accusation is not acceptable to us.

WARD: There are small signs that the Taliban is moving with the times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I listened to the radio, also Facebook, and other media.

WARD: You have Facebook?


WARD: But it's clear that the fundamental ideology has not changed.

So if somebody is found guilty of stealing, you cut off their hand?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we implement the Sharia. We follow Sharia instruction.

WARD: And if someone is found guilty of adultery, you will stone them to death?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the Sharia allows stoning to death.

WARD: As we're leaving the interview with, the military commander for the district arrives. And the dispute breaks out about us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They should have brought a man, one of them says.

WARD: So the issue right now is they don't want us to walk outside because I'm a woman. They think it's inappropriate.

We agreed to follow the men at a distance, something I've never had to do in my career.

Do you want to see peace between the Taliban and America?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be better if this question was put to the spokesperson of the Islamic Emirates.

WARD: Do you feel like the Taliban is winning the war?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God-willing, we are hopeful. We are supported by God.


ALLEN: Clarissa Ward there. The Taliban now controlled more territory than at any time since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan almost 18 years ago.

The death toll from Hurricane Dorian is slowly rising in the Bahamas. Officials say 45 people are now confirmed dead. But with hundreds still missing, they do expect that number to climb much higher.

Rescue teams have been digging through debris fields, searching for more possible survivors, but all that rubble is slowing down their efforts.

In the worst-hit areas, relief teams are delivering aid to 70,000 people who are now homeless. As CNN's Paula Newton reports. Many of them are trying to leave.


PAUL NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Finally, they are going, relief for the thousand stranded in apocalyptic conditions.

WILLIAM STERN, SENIOR LIEUTENANT, ROYAL BAHAMAS DEFENSE FORCE: Anyone that wants to leave can leave. We have ships coming in back and forth all day taking folks out.

NEWTON: In Marsh Harbour they line the port hour after hour with one thing on their minds.

ANNE WILMORE, HURRICANE SURVIVOR: (INAUDIBLE) to me right now. All they want in this beach is just to get on that boat.

NEWTON: Lugging belongings they have scavenged from demolished homes and lives, thousands were finally evacuated.


EMILY: Hello.

WILMORE: Hey, Emily (ph). This is Anne.

EMILY: Are you all right?

WILMORE: Yes, Emily. I'm okay.

NEWTON: Anne Wilmore was letting her family know she was okay and getting on a boat. This little solace (ph) though, she has friends and relatives she hasn't heard from since the storm.

The government has warned the death toll will rise, a fact already known to those who lived through this. Search dogs are on the islands but strained already from the overwhelming job at hand. Morticians at this makeshift morgue told us they are still waiting for the real works to begin. The grim task of recovery will be a challenge, they say, as bodies are submerged, others buried alive.

Bahamian and USAID official confirmed that based on aerial and ground assessments, the Abaco Islands remain a priority for search and recovery, nowhere more so than the mud. The (INAUDIBLE) neighborhood savagedly flattened by the storm.

They don't have an estimate as to how many people were here or how many people managed to get out alive. But, I mean, look at this, there are belongings thrown everywhere. It is impossible to make out even where the homes were and where they stood. And that means there is no way of knowing how many victims remain under the rubble.

WILLIAM DAVIS, HURRICANE SURVIVOR: You know, I passed yesterday and there was one laying here and there was one laying there. And this is the beginning of the mud.

NEWTON: William Davis barely survived. This boat ended up on the rooftop of his business. That's how ferocious the surge. He knows why the death toll so far won't stand.

DAVIS: I think it's going to be astonishing, the death number.

NEWTON: How many do you think (INAUDIBLE)?

DAVIS: Because, you know, that's from right here and we have four from right here.

NEWTON: He believes those four victims were swept away to see, and that could be Dorian's indelible legacy, not just the destruction but the fact that loved ones now counted as missing may never be found.

Paula Newton CNN, Marsh Harbour, Bahamas.


ALLEN: Tom Cotter joins us now. He is the head of Emergency Response and Preparedness at Project HOPE. Tom, thank you so much for being with us.

We know that you are Nassau now but just got back from Abaco. Can you describe what you saw there?

TOM COTTER, DIRECTOR OF EMERGENCY RESPONSE AND PREPAREDNESS, PROJECT HOPE: Absolutely. It's an old cliche but it really does look like a bomb went off. There are no buildings that are unaffected by Hurricane Dorian. There are very few homes that are habitable right now, and it's a very desperate situation.

ALLEN: What do the people -- what kind of help are they getting right now, because I know that you've got people there on the ground, but for days, we've been hearing people say they've got very little food, very little water, they have nowhere to go because they have no homes.

COTTER: Yes. It's been a pretty difficult time to access the two main islands that have been affected. The one that Project HOPE is working on with Abaco. Even today, the only way that we could get there was actually to charter a helicopter to bring medical supplies in, because not only it's an island but the port is damaged and the airport is damaged. So the critical lifeline pathways into these affected areas are limping along. And a lot of aid organizations are doing their best to get critical supplies where they are needed most.

ALLEN: Yes. And I've also seen a comment from you where you said that many of the people that your organization is talking with there on the island still don't know if their loved ones are dead or alive.

COTTER: Communications is down in wide areas of the two affected islands, the Grand Bahama and Grand Abaco. And because of that, it's difficult -- not only difficult to coordinate aid but the folks that have survived and folks that have even evacuated, it's been a week -- almost a week since the storm and some people still have not contacted their loved ones.

And the Bahamas is a relatively small country and everyone knows everybody. So that sense of community means that there's -- a lot of people have been affected by this storm, and there's no one who was unaffected.

ALLEN: Right. And I know that you're talking with them, dealing with the trauma of what they witnessed. We've heard story after story of people trying to even describe the sound of the storm, the impact of the storm, the sound of their house being torn apart. And you're just now getting in there via a helicopter, which you chartered. So when do you think you'll be able to be there in earnest to do more work?

COTTER: Project HOPE has been able to do several trips to Abaco since we were out here last Monday. So [00:15:00] it's been chartering flights and chartering helicopters. And, of course, the (INAUDIBLE) is quite limited. We're working on trying to get boats. But the debris and the water around this island is making that difficult as well.

We want to set up a presence there on Abaco Island. And right now, we're in Nassau. But right now, there is no food, there is no water, there is no electricity and there is no communication. So even if we move there, we'd be really relatively limited in what we could accomplish. So it really is kind of -- we have to get in and get out and keep working from where we can.

ALLEN: Yes. And I know that you've experienced several Category 5 hurricanes before. How does this one compare?

COTTER: This is really bad. This is one of the worst I've ever. And it's compounded by the fact that it's an island. It's surrounded by water on all sides, so the aid is so difficult to get to the people who need it the most.

And likewise, people can't just leave. They need to be leaving on boats or planes, and those are hard to (INAUDIBLE) right now.

ALLEN: Well, we so appreciate you talking with us. We know you are very busy and thank you for the work that Project HOPE is doing. Tom Cotter for us, thank you so much. Good Luck.

COTTER: Thank you, Natalie.

ALLEN: Coming up here, with an October 31st deadline looming and no E.U. deal in sight, has Brexit gone too far off the rails for Prime Minister Boris Johnson?

A conservative commentator explains why he thinks things are actually looking rosy.



ALLEN: I know we've said this a lot but another big week for Brexit is shaping starting with what will likely be a Monday to watch.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will meet with his Irish counterpart, Leo Varadkar, in Dublin in just a few hours and they are expected to discuss the likelihood of Britain striking a new deal on the Irish backstop. Mr. Varadkar says he is not expecting a breakthrough right now.

Also, the new law blocking the British government from enacting a no deal Brexit is set to take effect Monday. That means Mr. Johnson will need to come up with a new trade deal with the E.U. or ask for a third Brexit extension. He says he'd rather be, quote, dead in a ditch than see another delay.

And the prime minister's team is trying to push through a vote on a snap election but his opponents vowed to quash it.

ALLEN: Joining me now is Nile Gardiner, the director of the Heritage Foundation's Margaret Thatcher Foundation Center for Freedom. Nile is a Brexiteer and supporter of the prime minister. Mr. Gardiner, thanks for coming on with us.


ALLEN: Well, last week was certainly interesting. Some called it as disastrous for Boris Johnson. His brother resigns, and a top cabinet member, Amber Rudd, goes as well, citing what she called his political vandalism. What's your reaction to these developments?

GARDINER: Well, it's no surprise, I think, that Amber Rudd has resigned. After all, she is a remainer. She has not been a supporter of a no deal Brexit at all, even though she made a pledge to Boris Johnson that she would back a no deal if necessary. I think that with Amber Rudd, I mean, she represents the remainer wing of the conservative party, which is really a small minority within the conservative party.

So her resignation is no surprise and I think that she's really, of course, let the prime minister down, let the British government down and also let the British people down, because after the British voted to leave the European Union, they expect their members of parliament to support a swift Brexit. And I think that Amber Rudd is someone who's heart was never in Brexit. She fought against Brexit during the referendum. And I think she represents a wing of the conservative party now that no longer really has a home in the conservative party, and individuals who are not willing to implement the biggest British democratic vote in history.

ALLEN: Well, it's been said that conservatives have never been this split in 30 years. How will this affect the process, will it, at this juncture?

GARDINGER: Well, I think the prime minister has made it absolutely clear that he is not willing to support an extension to Article 50, delay to the Brexit to the end of January, remainer MPs are insisting on, and I expect that Boris Johnson is going to strongly resist any effort to force him to seek a delay or seek an extension. And I expect the government is going to challenge the remainer legislation in the courts.

And if the British government is forced by the Supreme Court to move forward with seeking an extension, I expect them Downing Street will attack all sorts of conditions to any kind of extension, conditions that I think the European Union will find unacceptable. And, already, the French foreign minister has indicated that France is unwilling and present to support any extension to Brexit.

And so I do believe that Brexit is still on the cards for October 31st. The British government is 100 percent committed to leaving the E.U. on October 31st, I think the British public as well expects Britain to leave the European Union at the end of October. And that is what the prime minister is committed to doing. This is a battle, really, between the British people and some wings of parliament who are adamantly opposed to the democratic will of the British people.

ALLEN: But if there is a -- if Brexit takes place October 31st, that there is no deal Brexit, do you fear the ramifications of that?

GARDINER: No, I don't, actually. In fact, I have complete confidence in Britain. I think Britain is going to do just fine under a no deal Brexit.


Britain is the world's fifth largest economy. I believe it is doing extremely well in the approach to Brexit. Foreign investment continues to flow into the United Kingdom. We haven't seen an exodus of companies or across Europe already. The preparations are being made for a no deal Brexit from France to Belgium, to Germany.

And I expect that all of the doom and gloom, the fearmongering that is in place with regard to the idea of a no deal Brexit will really come to nothing. And I think that Britain will thrive and prosper outside of the European Union.

ALLEN: Why are you so confident? Why are you so confident of that when so many people say, economically, this will be disastrous?

GARDINER: Well, the same people, of course, were saying that it would be disastrous for Britain to stay out of the European single currency. And I think Britain has done extremely well outside of the single currency.

And I think that Britain in the Brexit era is going to be a global force to be reckoned with. Britain is a highly innovative entrepreneurial country with rising economic freedom. This is a nation that has been one of the greatest nations in the world for many, many centuries, and will continue to be so, and also is a great free trading power once more, freed off the shackles of the European Union, customs union. Britain will be able to strike free trade deals across the world, including with the United States.

And here in the the United States, of course, the U.S. administration is actually preparing already for a large-scale free trade agreement between London and Washington, a trade deal that is going to be a force-generator for prosperity and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. There's 100 percent support in the White House for such a deal.

ALLEN: People hope that what you say is true because it looks like Boris Johnson will stick to his guns, as he said, he'd rather die in a ditch than go back to the E.U. Do you think he's going -- any chance, he would go back to the E.U. or is that off the table? We have just a few seconds left.

GARDINER: Well, I think that Boris Johnson has made it absolutely clear that an extension to Article 50 would be a betrayal of the British people, a surrender to the European Union. He is not prepared to go down that path. And I do think that Britain is going to leave the E.U. on October 31st, deal or no deal. And that is what the British people expect.

And I think that you have a prime minister now who is promising to deliver the will of the British people, and that's a breath of fresh air in contrast to Theresa May. And I think that Boris Johnson is going to make a great success out of Brexit.

ALLEN: All right. Well, well time will tell soon enough, will it not? We appreciate your insights. Thank you so much for joining us, Nile Gardiner.

GARDINER: My pleasure, thank you very much.

ALLEN: Next year, the Pentagon is suspending more than 100 military projects so that billions can be diverted to build President Trump's border wall. We'll have the reaction next.


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen, and here are our top stories this hour.


U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the U.S. still wants a peace deal with the Taliban, but talks won't move ahead until the Taliban deliver on a number of commitments. Those include reducing violence. U.S. President Trump says he canceled a secret meeting with Taliban leaders after the militants took credit for a bombing which killed a U.S. soldier.

The death toll from Hurricane Dorian has now climbed to 45 in the Bahamas. That number will likely rise as rescue teams continues searching for hundreds still missing. Seventy thousand people in the hardest-hit areas are homeless, and many are trying to get off the island.

Former South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Mark Sanford has announced he would challenge President Trump for the Republican nomination next year. He joins two other Republican seeking to unseat the president in the 2020 primaries, but all three face long odds against Mr. Trump, whose approval rating among Republicans has held steady, around 90 percent.

Iran has indicated it will soon release the British-flagged oil tanker it sees in July. The foreign ministry says it's finishing up the legal paperwork before letting the ship go. Iran seized the vessel two weeks after one of its own tankers was

briefly detained by British forces near Gibraltar.

The U.S. Coast Guard is trying to rescue four South Koreans on board a cargo ship which overturned and caught fire off the coast of the state of Georgia on Sunday. Twenty other crew members, including other South Korean and Filipino nationals had been rescued. This dramatic footage shows some of them being lifted to safety by a Coast Guard helicopter crew. Here's more from the rescue effort.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're communicating via personal radio. They're trying to find a way off right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Copy. Any injuries?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are injuries reported within the ship's hull.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Port Authority just called. There's a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) souls on board, and they're carrying cars and heavy equipment.


ALLEN: Guys, you just heard there about 4,000 cars were packed inside the ship, which was bound for the state of Maryland before it capsized. The vessel hasn't released any pollutants so far, but crews are ready to respond if needed.

The cause of the incident remains under investigation.

One of President Trump's big campaign promises, of course, was to make Mexico pay for a wall along the southern U.S. border.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to build a great border wall. And who's going to pay for the wall?




TRUMP: Who's going to pay for the wall?





ALLEN: Despite the promise he made so many times as a candidate, Mexico isn't paying for the wall. Instead, the Pentagon is diverting about $3.6 billion in military construction funds to help build the wall, and that's sparking bipartisan anger from lawmakers and many others.

For more on this, here's CNN's Alex Marquardt.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Norfolk, Virginia, is home to the U.S. Navy's Atlantic fleet, and the largest naval base in the world. The area's central and vital role in military operations and national security hasn't stopped the Trump administration from naming four different military projects here whose almost $80 million in funding will now be diverted to pay for the border wall.


BOBBY SCOTT, U.S. HOUSE DEMOCRAT: All of these projects are being lost for a wall that makes no sense, and everybody knows it.

MARQUARDT: Democratic Congressman Bobby Scott has represented the district for almost three decades. He says President Trump's decision is costing his constituents jobs.

SCOTT: It means that the jobs that could have come to the area won't come to the area. Tens of millions of dollars' worth of -- worth of construction. That's a lot of economic impact to this area that we are going to lose for a wall that is not needed.

MARQUARDT: In all, $3.6 billion in military funds are being taken to help pay for the wall. One hundred twenty-seven projects, from firing ranges to aircraft hangers to childcare, both at home and abroad, whose budgets are being gutted.

In Virginia, before that are losing $77 million in funding are a naval ship maintenance facility, two hazardous materials warehouse products and a cyber operations facility. In a place with such a historic and important military heritage, where 40 percent of the economy is related to military funding. That hurts both financially and emotionally.

COL. BRUCE STURK (RET.), HAMPTON, VIRGINIA, DIRECTOR OF FEDERAL FACILITIES SUPPORT: Our community is a fabric built on military veterans and a very healthy military population here in the Hampton Roads region. So I think there's a general sense of disappointment.

MARQUARDT: Bruce Sturk retired from the Air Force as a colonel, last serving at Langley Air Force base, which is now being stripped of $10 million for that cyber-operations and training facility at a time when cyberattacks are one of the greatest threats to national security, along with others that will now be ignored, says Democratic Congresswoman Elaine Luria, a retired naval commander whose district is also effected.

REP. ELAINE LURIA (D): You know, I know firsthand from having spoken to the commanders at the bases where this impact is going to happen, that it is going to impact our mission and our security.

MARQUARDT: Not just the security of the nation but those serving it, whose priorities now may not be addressed.

LURIA: It's like your husband. It's your neighbor. It's your wife is going on the deployment. And you don't want to think that, you know, their ship wasn't maintained properly. They didn't have the right tools that they needed to go do their job. So it hits home a lot in a community like this where everyone is so tied to the military.

MARQUARDT (on camera): The Pentagon is pushing back on this idea that these projects have been defunded. They say they have just been deferred for now, but they'll get their funding back at a later date.

But this $3.6 billion dollars had been specifically appropriated by Congress for these projects, and so it's getting political. Democrats say this is exactly why you have congressional approval, and now, to get those projects refunded, the money need to be re-approved by Congress, which is far from certain.

Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: A warning from South Korean military defense experts. They say they have evidence the north is working on advanced weapons. That story is next.


ALLEN: The U.S. president has been downplaying North Korea's latest missile tests, because the Pentagon says they are short-range weapons. But South Korean military experts say they have evidence suggesting the president should be paying closer attention to Pyongyang's enhanced missile capabilities.

Our David Culver has this report.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Children in South Korea's capital soaking up relief from the heat, locals and tourists finding shade as they stroll through Seoul's busy streets, but many here unable to protect against fears of an uncertain future.

SEONG YK-HYEON, LOCAL RESIDENT (through translator): I'm a college student, and I'll be graduating soon, so I'm mostly worried about getting a job.

CULVER (on camera): It might sound strange, an economic fear more prevalent than worries over a military conflict. But with this new round of test launches, military defense experts here worry that North Korea's military capabilities are enhancing rapidly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This picture proves that North Korea's guns are really accurate.

CULVER: Kyung Je (ph) served as a senior director with South Korea's National Security Council. He's been analyzing the multiple test launches North Korea's carried out since early May.


CULVER: Je (ph) points to this retrofitted lumber truck as an example. He says it allows for mobile launches, reducing the warning time.

(on camera): They took a truck that was for lumber for trees, and they turned it into a rocket launcher.

JE (ph): Yes.

CULVER: Successfully?

JE (ph): Successfully.

CULVER (voice-over): From late 2017 through all of 2018, summitry overshadowed the North flexing of such military might. At the time, Army General Vincent Brooks counted each day that passed without a provocation from the North.

GEN. VINCENT BROOKS (RET.), U.S. NAVY: Each day of counting helped us realize that, yes, this appears to be real.

CULVER: The count stopped at 520 days. On May fourth, North Korea began test launching missile once again.

BROOKS: They're still advancing capabilities that require professional military response.

CULVER: Officials say the test launches violate U.N. Security Council resolutions. President Trump says it did not violate the agreement he made with Kim in Singapore.

TRUMP: We never restricted short-range missiles. We'll see what happens. Many nations test those missiles.

CULVER: The short-missiles can still reach North Korea and Japan.

BROOKS: These are missiles that do threaten our two most important allies.

CULVER: General Brooks says he is confident in the U.S.-South Korean alliance to safeguard the peninsula.

BROOKS: Candidly, testing by North Korea makes it easier for us to understand the capabilities of the system. Chan feels North Korea has nearly perfected their ability to evade missile defense systems. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They fly very low, and they hit the target by some

kind of bull's-eye.

CULVER: Back on the streets of Seoul, folks choosing not to dwell on potential threats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Missile launches are very common, so I don't worry about them that much.

CULVER: All the while, hoping the next generation will enjoy a new tranquility alongside their northern neighbors.

David Culver, CNN, Seoul, South Korea.


ALLEN: And that is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. Thanks for watching. WORLD SPORT is next. Some news about the U.S. Open, and I'll be back at the top of the hour with more news from around the world. Hope to see you then.







ALLEN: Afghanistan calls on the Taliban to end the violence.