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Kim Jong Un: North Korea Free to Resume Nuclear Testing; Trump: Some E-Cigarette Flavors Coming off the Market; What to Expect as New Laws Take Effect Across the Country; Australia Fires Claim Seven Lives in Past 24 Hours. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired January 1, 2020 - 11:30   ET


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They said because the United States hasn't moved on the issue that's most important to them, sanctions, they no longer feel obligated to abide by the issue most important to the United States which is North Korea's self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests.


In fact, North Korea saying they're going to bolster their nuclear defense, basically reversing course entirely because, remember, the whole reason why the United States and North Korea decided to sit down, why President Trump and Kim Jong-un met in person, was to solve this problem of a rapidly nuclearizing North Korea.

And now, we could be right back there again. Kim Jong-un talking about a new strategic weapon that the world will witness very soon. But as usual, being cryptic, not saying what that weapon is.

This is what North Korea often does. They're deliberate in the way that they issue these messages. They kind of want the world to be guessing about what their next move is going to be. And at the same time, they put the information out there and wait to hear the response from the United States primarily, but also other stakeholders, including their ally and patron China which, of course, doesn't want to see any sort of instability on the peninsula.

Kim Jong-un also gave us insight into why he has decided to do this now. I'll read a portion of his statement. He said: The United States' real intention is to seek its own political and diplomatic interests while wasting time away under the signed board of dialogue and negotiations, and at the same time keep sanctions upon the DPRK so as to weaken the DPRK.

Of course, North Koreans need sanctions lifted. They have acknowledged that. But they said, Kim Jong-un said in his own words, you know, we're not going to sell out our dignity. That is the key kind of at the heart of all of this.

The North Koreans feel that they have lost some of that dignity because of the embarrassment in Hanoi and the subsequent rhetorical conversations that have followed. And this might just be their first attempt as we begin this New Year to get that back. Will Ripley, CNN, Hong Kong.



Joining me now, political and national security analyst, David Sanger.

So, David, I want to read to you a new tweet from former national security adviser John Bolton. This is what Bolton said, quote: How to respond to Kim Jong-un's threatening New Year's remarks? The U.S. should fully resume all canceled or downsized military exercises in South Korea, hold congressional hearings on whether U.S. troops are truly ready to, quote, fight tonight.

He is referring there to something that Defense Secretary Mark Esper said about the forces in that region.

So, David, what is your reaction to Bolton's thoughts on this situation?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Mr. Bolton never liked the policy that President Trump was pursuing, Ryan. And he made no secret of that. It just -- when you go to talk to him about it when he was still in the office, he would always phrase it, well, the president's policy is, the president's belief is -- making it clear he didn't share that.

So, once he advocated, he's basically advocated that by resuming the military exercises that the U.S. go back to the status quo before the Singapore summit because the only thing that really happened after Singapore was that the president canceled those exercises, and Kim called the moratorium on nuclear missile testing.

Now, the key question here is whether the president should follow what the other faction in his administration suggested which was begin to do some sanctions relief in return for some step-by-step steps toward denuclearization. And that has not happened.

And so, right now, we're kind of back to where President Obama, President Bush, President Clinton were when they attempted some openings and then discovered in the end, the North Koreans really viewed their nuclear weapons as their ultimate insurance policy.

NOBLES: Yes. It does in many ways seem like Groundhog Day, doesn't it, that we're back to where we were despite all of the theatrics with Kim and President Trump.

So, David, really kind of crystallize this for us. I mean, how big of a threat does North Korea remain? Is there part of the North Korean regime that just likes this -- having this to be able to hold over the international community's head, or could they legitimately fire a nuclear weapon at some point?

SANGER: They could, but they understand that that would be the end of the country. So the nuclear weapon is more useful to them to sustaining the regime than anything else. It's the one thing that makes the rest of the world pay attention to them.

We wouldn't be talking to the North Koreans right now if it was not for the nuclear weapons. We might be bringing them up in front of the International Court, at The Hague for human rights abuses, we might be pressuring them for other reasons. But it's the nuclear weapons in the end that have kept three generations of the Kim family in power, and Kim understands that.

And if you go to the very end of his statement, he talks about reaching a new accord with the United States about the size and scope of his nuclear arsenal. What's that tell you? That he's not interested in denuclearization, he wants to go to arms control talks like we have with the Soviet Union and later with Russia, something that defines the size of a permanent North Korean nuclear force.


Of course, for any American president, that would be a very hard thing to swallow after decades of saying we would never tolerate a nuclear North Korea.

NOBLES: Right. And after President Trump initially getting an agreement that there be some level of denuclearization that would certainly be not exactly what he had originally intended.

David Sanger, thank you for your expertise. We appreciate it.

SANGER: Thank you, Ryan. Happy New Year.

NOBLES: Happy New Year.

Coming up, President Trump announces some e-cigarette flavors will be pulled from the market, but is the administration going far enough? And will it make any difference as the vaping epidemic gets worse?


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NOBLES: President Trump says an announcement is coming soon to take certain e-cigarette flavors off the market, which is a slight departure from reports a few months ago that the administration would ban all flavors because of their appeal to young children and teens. That doesn't seem to be the case now.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen joins me.

Elizabeth, what exactly is the president saying about this now?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Ryan, I will tell you that pediatricians were so excited when in September he said we are committed to children, we are going to get rid of these flavored e-cigarettes.

Let's take a listen to what he said three months later last night.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The flavors will come off, they're going to be checked. We want to make it -- people have died from this. They've died from vaping. We think we understand why. But we're doing a very exhaustive examination, and hopefully everything will be back on the market very, very shortly.


COHEN: So what does that mean, "everything will be back on the market very, very shortly," after he said he wants to take the flavors off the market? He didn't explain what he meant.

Now I'm going to -- we're going to listen to something else he said that explains that perhaps President Trump doesn't just care about children. Let's take a listen.


TRUMP: We have to protect the children. We have to protect the families. The same time we have a very big industry, it's become a very big industry. We're going to take care of the industry. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: So people will tell you that the industry is hurting children, but Trump says he wants to protect the industry. It doesn't really make sense. He didn't give any details -- Ryan.

NOBLES: So when it comes to advocates for children's health and safety, what do they want to see the president do?

COHEN: Right. They want to see the president do what he said he would do in September which is remove all flavored e-cigarettes. They said, look, you can leave the ones that taste like tobacco because adults use those in order to get themselves off of regular cigarettes. And that's a good thing. We want people to be off of regular cigarettes.

But we don't want kids to get hooked on these tutti-frutti, mango, passion fruit, whatever, kinds of flavors. There's no reason for them to be on the market.

When you look at the numbers, Ryan, you will see what I mean. In 2017, about 11 percent of teens were regular vapers. Just two years later, 2019, 27 percent were regular vapers. That is a huge jump in two years. Doctors say we have to do something to turn those numbers around.

NOBLES: OK. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks for breaking down the numbers for us. We appreciate it.

And coming up, a New Year means new laws for states across the country, from minimum wage to marijuana. We'll tell you where change is coming.



NOBLES: It is a New Year, so that means new laws are kicking in.

CNN's Nick Valencia joins me with what you need to know.

So, Nick, let's start with minimum wage. There are some good news there for workers, right?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I want to start by wishing you a happy New Year there, Ryan Nobles. It's awesome to see you on the anchor desk.

NOBLES: Thanks, Nick.

VALENCIA: And with all the excitement about 2020, you may not seen all the hundreds of new laws going into effect today, things that impact, like things like you talked about, Ryan -- minimum wage, the tightening and loosening of gun laws, even the legalization of marijuana in Illinois. But let's start there with minimum wages. In 21 states starting

today, those wages are going up, according to the National Employment Law Project. In 17 of the 72 jurisdictions that are impacted where wages are going up, the new rate will reach or exceed $15 per hour.

But remember for reference the national minimum wage remains at $7.25 for non-tipped employees -- Ryan.

NOBLES: All right. So, Nick, let's talk about the debate over gun control. Can we expect to see any changes on that front?

VALENCIA: Yes, it's been yet another year of mass shootings. Some states are actually now starting to take action. In Colorado, for instance, a new gun restriction law called "The Red Flag Law", it takes effect starting today. That law will allow family, household members, law enforcement to petition for a court order to temporarily take away guns from a person deemed to be in danger of hurting themselves or others.


Meanwhile, though, in Tennessee, they're actually moving in the other direction. They're starting today, January 1st, it will be easier to obtain a concealed carry permit. All you have to do there now is take a 90-minute online course in order to receive a carry permit. Supporters of the law say it's significantly faster and a cheaper alternative -- Ryan.

NOBLES: Let's talk about marijuana now because if you live in the Midwest, weed will now be legal in places like Illinois. It's incredible to see how quickly these laws are changing.

VALENCIA: That's right. And there in Illinois pot joker -- pot smokers, I should say, can actually rejoice in the Midwest.

Starting today, anyone 21 years old or older can actually buy and possess recreational marijuana in Illinois. Under the new law, you can possess up to 30 grams of marijuana, just over an ounce, five grams of concentrate and no more than 500 milligrams of cannabis- infused products. The new law also pardons individuals with non- violent convictions for amounts of marijuana up to 30 grams.

There's a lot of laws that we found interesting. The ban of single use plastic bags in Oregon. You know, hundreds of others as I mentioned.

We have an article that came out today If you're interested in those laws that we talk about, hearing more about them and reading about others, go over to to take a read -- Ryan.

NOBLES: All right. And, Nick, happy New Year.

VALENCIA: Thank you so much.

NOBLES: Good to be on with you.

VALENCIA: You got it.

NOBLES: All right. Have a good one.

VALENCIA: You too.

NOBLES: Millions of you starting the New Year with resolutions, especially regarding your finances.

CNN business correspondent Alison Kosik has information to help you achieve your financial goals in 2020.


ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: The three most popular financial resolutions this year are saving more money, paying down debt and spending less. Following through on those is the only protection against the top money concerns -- unexpected expenses, personal debt and not saving enough.

The good news, the economy remains solid ten years into its recovery. It's not as super charged as the president promised, but 2 percent growth is fine. Investors made a killing in the stock market last year. The S&P 500 ended up more than 25 percent higher in 2019, and the Federal Reserve cut interest rates three times in 2019, great for those of you buying or refinancing a home.

The challenges: global growth is slowing and a symbolic trade deal with China still leaves billions of tariffs in effect.

While you can't control a trade war, the Fed or the stock market, here's what you can control. Check your 401(k), put money into 529 college savings plans if you have kids, have six months of expenses saved for an emergency. And, of course, live below your means and invest the rest.

There's nothing wrong with a boring S&P 500 index fund.

In New York, I'm Alison Kosik.


NOBLES: Alison, thank you.

And we'll be right back.



NOBLES: A dire situation right now in Australia as firefighters struggle to get a handle on massive wildfires consuming parts of the country.

Journalist Simon Cullen is there with more on the situation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SIMON CULLEN, CNN JOURNALIST: It's been a devastating start to the New Year in Australia as fires continue to rage out of control, destroying everything in their path. As authorities confirmed more deaths on Wednesday, they also expect the figure to rise as the crisis continues. It's certainly not the start to the New Year many were hoping for.

(voice-over): Sydney welcomed the New Year with spectacular fireworks but it wasn't without controversy. Hundreds of thousands of people signed an online petition urges them to be cancelled given the bush fire crisis gripping the country.

As the situation has worsened, Australia's defense forces are being deployed to some of the worse affected regions, ready to evacuate those forced to flee the fires. On New Year's Eve, thousands of people in coastal towns were forced to seek shelter on the beach front, some taking to the water to escape the flames.

But in this New South Wales town, even the beach front became too dangerous.

JAYDE QUINN, EVACUEE: We're back in the caravan park because the fire is along the beach now and we can't get out because all the highways are blocked.

CULLEN: Dozens of fires are continuing to burn out of control with a size and ferocity rarely seen in Australia. This dramatic video shows the moment a fire truck was overwhelmed by flames. And as each day passes, comes more news of homes and lives lost.

SHANE FITZSIMMONS, COMMISSIONER, NEW SOUTH WALES RURAL FIRE SERVICE: We also have a very real challenge at the moment with a couple of isolated communities where we have reports of injuries and burn injuries to members of the public. We haven't been able to get access via roads or via aircraft.

CULLEN: While New Year's day brought with it slightly milder conditions, it's only temporary relief for those fighting the fires.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are assuming that on Saturday, weather conditions will be at least as bad as they were yesterday and that's something all of us have to brace ourselves for.

CULLEN: For many, though, it's already too late. The New Year, normally a time of celebration, has reinforced a devastating reality. Australia's fire crisis is far from over.

(on camera): And it's this constant fire threat that means many communities are nervously watching and waiting to see what the coming days bring, knowing there is more hot, dry weather on the way.

Simon Cullen, CNN, Bowral, New South Wales.


NOBLES: All right. Thank you, Simon. And thank you for joining me.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with Nia-Malika Henderson starts right now.