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At This Hour

Pelosi Lands In Taiwan Amid High Tensions With China; U.S. Drone Strike Kills Key 9/11 Architect Ayman Al-Zawahiri. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired August 02, 2022 - 11:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Tell us how the timing of this is received in China.

JEFFREY BADER, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR ASIAN AFFAIRS AT THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Well, China hasn't had the best of years as you know. Their zero-COVID strategy has meant that their economy has done terribly. Their growth in the first -- in the last quarter was 0.4 percent, is a country that's accustomed to growing it anywhere from 6 to 12 percent over the last 10 years. And, of course, their relations with the United States have gone (INAUDIBLE).

And they made a questionable decision to align themselves fully with Russia, right, before Russia --


BADER: -- invaded Ukraine. So, there hasn't been a great year for China or a great year Xi Jinping.

SCIUTTO: No question. Of course, that alignment with Russia raises hard questions about where China respects territorial integrity and where it does not.

Jeffrey Bader, thanks so much for joining us. Our team covering this from around the Asia region. And thanks so much, all of you for joining us today. I'm Jim Sciutto.

At This Hour with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We are following the breaking news. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has arrived in Taiwan. The Speaker arriving just really moments ago for a visit which has been controversial and speculated about for weeks. Now, the visit never publicly confirmed although it has been public knowledge for some time.

The White House concerned and even warning Pelosi about the visit although never actually telling the House Speaker not to go. Meantime, U.S. officials are closely now watching China to see how Beijing could respond to this visit. Chinese officials have offered several veiled threats, including a warning that the Chinese military would not stand idly by if its sovereignty was infringed upon.

Taking look at pictures coming in just moments ago of Speaker Pelosi getting off the plane in the middle of the night, of course, in Taipei.

CNN's Will Ripley is live in Taipei joining me right now. Will, it's been, you know, it's never been publicly confirmed that she would be even landing in -- would be visiting Taiwan. Now we know. But what do we know about her visit?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, just like we had to kind of hodgepodge together information from various sources that were telling us that we should look at this flight that was coming from Malaysia, a flight that landed a short time ago. It's now just after 11:00 p.m. here in Taipei. So it certainly has been a long day for Speaker Pelosi and her staff. And we believe that anytime now they will be on their way to their hotel, which is not that far of a drive from where they're landing.

They have a hotel also with a view of Taipei 101, which has been lit up in colors and a message for -- to welcome Speaker Pelosi. And that's one of the most public expressions that we've seen here, frankly, because, you know, aside from Taipei one-on-one lighting up, there has been radio silence from the President's office on down, on anything pertaining to Speaker Pelosi or, frankly, any movements that have been observed by the Taiwanese military when it comes to the mainland Chinese military.

And that is very unusual, Kate, because this is one of the most transparent governments I've ever covered. And I think it speaks to the Taiwan knowledge that even though this is a real, in many ways, a huge moment for Taiwan to have, you know, the first U.S. House Speaker in 25 years, you know, someone who's second in line to the presidency, meeting with their President, meeting with their members of parliament, touring around, you know, we expect meeting with some local business leaders, and perhaps even seeing some monuments and other sightseeing type stops, depending on how much time they're going to have, you know, in between meetings.

The fact that you have somebody from the United States at that high of a level here is very encouraging for Taiwanese leadership, because they hope that that experience, the Speaker and the other lawmakers will take back to Washington and help that -- help shape their policy. But they also know that she's in pain, who is the man who Taiwan models its entire China strategy around his personality. One man's personality, 1.5 billion people because he's the most powerful Chinese leader since now. And they know he's not happy to have Nancy Pelosi here a couple months before his big moment, you know, where he's supposed to get an unprecedented third presidential term and probably president, you know, for life if he wants to.

You know, he says that Taiwan is a province of his country. He has Taiwan put in Chinese passports listed as just any other province. And he has said repeatedly, that one way or another, you know, eventually, Taiwan is coming back to, as they call it, the motherland. That's not what a lot of Taiwanese people want. And it's certainly not what the leadership of Taiwan wants.

And they feel like their best strategy is to try to speak with their friends, because they don't have formal diplomatic allies because China has tried to ice them out on a global stage. Speak to their friends in the United States and other democracies, show them around and hope that if and when the time comes, that those countries will remember their time on the island of Taiwan and try to work to do what they can to protect it's very unique democratic system here, a young, vibrant democracy, the only case Chinese speaking democracy in the whole world.


BOLDUAN: Yes. Will, stick with me for a second. I want to get over to Manu Raju, who's now on Capitol Hill. He's got a new statement in from the Speaker. What are you picking up, Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is the first time she's actually ever confirmed or talked publicly about this trip to Taiwan. This has been under wraps for some time. She's really refused to even discuss this because of security concerns. And now in the aftermath of her arrival, she's now explaining why she is, in fact, going to Taiwan, defying the Chinese Communist leadership's demands.

She says that the congressional delegations visit is part of the unwavering commitment to support Taiwan's vibrant democracy. She goes on to talk about how this is part of a broader trip to the region to go into Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan and focused on economic partnership and Democratic governors. Because she says that America's solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important to now today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.

And then she goes on to talk about how their visit is -- she defends her visit. She says America's -- she says there's a no way in violation with America's policy towards Taiwan, which is a way to push back against the criticism from the Chinese government about this trip sharing that she says in the statement, our visit is one of several congressional delegation to Taiwan. And it is in no way contradicts longstanding United States policy guided by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979.

The U.S.-China joint communiques and the six assurances. And she goes on to say, the United States continues to oppose unilateral efforts to change the status quo. So defending this trip explaining that it is not, in her view, any breach of U.S. policy and it's handling of Taiwan, but explaining why she is there to promote democratic values and to say the United States stands with the people of Taiwan. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Manu, stick with me as well. Let's get over to Kylie Atwood now, she's got more on this. This statement from Pelosi, this declaration, right as she's landing in touching down, Kylie, will be welcomed from the -- welcome -- will be a welcomed addition to the conversation from the State Department.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. And what she is saying in part in this statement, mirrors what we have heard from the Biden administration over the last 24-48 hours, with officials, including the Secretary of State making the argument that, look, Nancy Pelosi's trip to Taiwan isn't unprecedented saying that other members of Congress have visited Taiwan, even a Speaker of the House visited Taiwan, albeit that was 25 years ago, Kate.

And the circumstances today are incredibly different. But the Biden administration has been calling on China not to escalate things. With the Secretary of State saying, if there is a crisis that's created here, that would be entirely on China. And I also think, Kate, that it's important to realize that this visit by the Speaker of the House isn't happening in a vacuum. And it comes as U.S. intelligence officials have been saying publicly that China has been working hard to be able to militarily take over Taiwan.

So, while the Biden administration says this One China policy stance, and Speaker Pelosi also said that, in her statement, this physical show of support, in the context of China, trying to build up militarily to take over Taiwan is, in and of itself, significant.

BOLDUAN: Kylie, thank you so much.

Make it over now to Susan Glasser, CNN Global Affairs Analyst, Staff Writer for The New Yorker. Susan, a lot of statements now were going to be issued a lot -- is going to be said. What do you see the real impact being of this visit, for the U.S., for U.S.-China relations?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, look, it's a good question. I mean, one thing is, can you recall the, you know, similar amount of almost breathless attention being given to a congressional delegation trip even won by Nancy Pelosi, in recent years, right? What's part of China's threats have backfired in the sense that they've called enormous attention to Pelosi's trip, which was almost certainly part of her intention in the first place, which is to send the message not only to China, but here in the United States as well, that it's both parties in the United States and not just the Republican Party that is dedicated to stopping China's efforts to take over Taiwan and to deny the people of Taiwan their legitimate right to determine their own government in their own future, right?

So she has just had enormous visibility for her trip heightened by the bluster and the threats coming from China. So that's one thing. The other thing, though, is that I fear this may represent essentially a new phase in the ongoing escalation towards some what feels scarily like an inevitable crisis over the status of Taiwan given Xi Jinping's rhetoric --


BOLDUAN: I was going to ask about that because you've said that one China expert actually told you recently this -- that this visit might be Xi Jinping's version of a wag the dog scenario. What do they mean? GLASSER: Well, you know, it's -- I'm glad you brought that up because, first of all, there's domestic politics, even in an autocracy and a single party state as China is. And Xi Jinping is looking toward a very important Party Congress in the fall in November, at which his role essentially, as the unchallenged leader is, is to be recemented.

And this is a very important moment for him. He wants to essentially send the message that he's the tough guy on Taiwan, and provoking a crisis over this visit, escalating this into more of a confrontation, using it as a cover potentially to take more concrete actions. I think that's the thing that's very worrisome.

So I do think that there are politics on both sides of this. But the real worry is that we're just hurtling down the road toward a confrontation because she has used maximalist rhetoric about Taiwan, not dissimilar, frankly, from the rhetoric that you've heard from Vladimir Putin denying Ukraine's right to exist as an independent country. That is also the view that Xi Jinping takes towards Taiwan that it does not have the right to exist independent of China.

BOLDUAN: Susan, it's good to see you. Thank you so much for that.

Coming up, we're going to have much more on this breaking news. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arriving in Taiwan. We're going to go to the White House next. Stay with us.



BOLDUAN: We continue to follow the breaking news right now. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has just landed in Taiwan, really just a few moments ago, really in the dead of night. Her visit has been highly controversial since it was first mentioned, and even whispered about weeks ago. Now we have first confirmation she's actually there because she has walked off the plane.

Let's get over back over to CNN's Will Ripley. He's in Taipei, Taiwan watching all of this play out. And Will, there's a new statement in from China, what are they saying?

RIPLEY: Yes. I mean, this is what we expected pretty much. And, in fact, it's in many ways, it's much more tame than some of the commentary at the beginning when we were just learning about Pelosi's visit and they were commentators calling for a shocking military response. China's statement, and it's a long one here, but I'll just read you what I think is kind of the headline here. It says, from China's view, I'm quoting, "This is a serious violation of the One China principle and the provisions of the Three China- U.S. Joint Communiques. It has a severe impact on the political foundation of China-U.S. relations, and seriously infringes upon China's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

China also blaming the United States saying, quote, "A gravely undermines peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and sends a seriously wrong signal to the separatist forces for Taiwan independence."

You know, the issue here is that from Xi Jinping, the Chinese President's perspective, Tsai Ing-wen, the President of Taiwan or Joseph Wu, the Foreign Minister of Taiwan, Joseph Wu is actually on like a most wanted list that China has put out. I mean, they view these people who were democratically elected on this island of 25 million people, by voters on this island, you know, they -- China views these elected officials as Renegade, you know, illegitimate leadership.

And so, therefore, when the United States and somebody like Nancy Pelosi meets with them, and gives them the legitimacy that China feels is all due to, you know, all belongs to China and Xi Jinping, that's why this is such a big deal for them. But if all we're getting statements right now, Kate, not any sort of military action, then that would be a very, very good outcome here.

BOLDUAN: Great point. We'll see what happens though. Will, thank you so much for that.

Joining me right now is John Kirby from the White House, Spokesman for the National Security Council. John, a busy day for you to say the least. Thank you so much for coming on. Are you happy that Nancy Pelosi is there?

JOHN KIRBY, NSC STRATEGIC COORDINATOR FOR COMMUNICATIONS: We think it's important that the Speaker has the opportunity to visit Taiwan, just like other members of Congress have over in just this year. Several bipartisan delegations have gone to Taiwan, we think that's important. We actually believe very strongly, and our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act to continue to support Taiwan's self- defense.

And as the President said, after his meeting with President Xi, we also reaffirm the One China policy. We don't support Taiwan independence. But we absolutely do support the right and the prerogative of congressional leaders to include Speaker Pelosi to visit Taiwan if that's what she wants to do.

BOLDUAN: And that is exactly what Nancy Pelosi said in her statement that they just put out that this is reaffirming the One China policy. However --

KIRBY: That's right.

BOLDUAN: -- I guess a question is, what does China see in here? And do they believe that? Because in the statement that Will Ripley just read from the Chinese foreign ministry, it says this is a serious violation of the One China principle. It has a severe impact on the political foundation of China-U.S. relations, and it gravely undermined minds peace and stability. That doesn't sound good.

KIRBY: Well, they can speak for their own views on this. And then, obviously, they've done that. There's no violation of any sovereignty issues here. Her visit is very much in keeping with previous visits by congressional leaders, and I would add a former Speaker of the House, now that was about 20-25 years ago, I understand that.

BOLDUAN: In a very different political climate, right?

KIRBY: Of course, it was a different geopolitical climate. I mean, it was, you know, a quarter of a century ago, but it doesn't mean that her visit is it all inconsistent with our adherence to the One China policy with our belief in not supporting Taiwan independence and our commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act to help their self-defense. It is 100 percent consistent with that.


And look, back to the statement that you read, and Will went through. Again, not only is it not a violation of any sovereignty issues, and it's not a violation of the One China policy, but the United States is not going to be intimidated by the threats. We've seen the bellicose rhetoric in the last few days. Over the last few weeks and months, we've seen a more aggressive, more coercive Chinese military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait.

United States is not going to be intimidated. We have serious security commitments in the region. We have five of seven treaty alliances in the Indo-Pacific. We take those commitments seriously. And we're going to continue to do so.

BOLDUAN: You just mentioned some of the rhetoric, Will Ripley says that there are reports in Chinese state media that Chinese war plans were approaching the median line of the Taiwan Strait. Can you confirm that that happened?

KIRBY: I cannot confirm those reports. I've seen those reports as well. But, look, as you might have seen yesterday at the White House briefing, I talked about some of the actions we might see in regards to a potential visit. And this was one of the ones that I talked about. So I can't confirm it. But it certainly wouldn't surprise me if they did that. It was part of the playbook that we anticipated that they might run.

BOLDUAN: If that's part of the playbook you anticipated they might run while she's there, how concerned are you for Taiwan after she leaves?

KIRBY: Obviously, we're going to be watching this closely. There's no reason for this visit to become a spring event for a crisis or conflict, or for a pretext that the Chinese might try to whip up for some sort of military action. Of course, we're concerned about that, which is why part and parcel of her trip is to reaffirm the United States commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to help Taiwan with its self-defense.

But, again, there's no reason for this to erupt into conflict. There's no change to our policy. This is absolutely consistent with it. And we're just going to watch as things unfold. Our job -- the only thing I add to that, Kate, is that you saw, she flew in on a military aircraft that's very typical. When the Speaker travels overseas, she does so on a military aircraft. As I said yesterday, we're going to make sure that she's going to be able to have a safe and secure visit. BOLDUAN: John, if I may, if I can turn directions really quickly to the other major news of the President announcing the killing, the death taking out Zawahiri over the weekend, the announcement of that speech last night. I know you're on to speak about it on the networks, and also on CNN this morning. But will the White House, will the administration be providing any additional evidence of the killing of the al-Qaeda leader?

KIRBY: I don't foresee any effort right now to provide some sort of public evidentiary information or content. We know through visible, visual evidence, as well as other information from various sources and methods that we got the guy we were aiming for.

Zawahiri is gone, and that's a good thing, not only for the United States, it's a good thing for the world. We don't have DNA evidence. We don't need DNA evidence. We have high confidence through a variety of methods that we killed the target, and that he is dead. And we're satisfied with that.

BOLDUAN: John, thank you so much for coming on so quickly. I really appreciate you getting on with me.

All right, coming up for us, much more on the story that we were just talking with John Kirby, the Spokesman for the National Security Council, U.S. killing the leader of al-Qaeda in a precision drone strike over the weekend. The big announcement coming last night. Much more to discuss on this. Stay with us.


BOLDUAN: One of the world's most wanted men is no longer. The United States took out the leader of al-Qaeda in a precision drone strike over the weekend. The President announced the successful mission from the White House last night.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Justice has been delivered and this terrorist leader is no more. People around the world no longer need to fear the vicious and determined killer.


BOLDUAN: Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a special operation in Kabul on Saturday following months of planning between the President, his national security and counterterrorism team. Zawahiri was Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant, one of the master plotters of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Biden's National Security Adviser said this morning that he still posed an active threat to the United States.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: While he wasn't involved in day-to-day planning, we believe in the years and months leading up to us taking him off the battlefield. We do believe he was playing an active role at a strategic level in directing al-Qaeda and in continuing to pose a severe threat against the United States and American citizens everywhere.


BOLDUAN: Zawahiri's death comes 11 years after the U.S. killed bin Laden and nearly one year after the U.S. military completed that chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving the country in the hands of the Taliban.

Joining me now for much more on this, CNN Intelligence and Security Analyst Bob Baer. He's a former CIA Operative. CNN International Security Editor Nick Paton Walsh and also Susan Glasser back with us.