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President Biden Forges New Diplomatic Partnership With Vietnam; Pennsylvania Manhunt Widens; Russia-North Korea Alliance?; Over 2,600 Killed in Moroccan Earthquake. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired September 11, 2023 - 13:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Ancient sites devastated, buildings reduced to rubble and a frantic search for survivors.

Right now, resources are pouring into Morocco after the deadly earthquake rocked the country there. And we are on the ground.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Alarming alliance. North Korea's leader will travel to meet Vladimir Putin as the Kremlin seeks out new weapons for its war on Ukraine. U.S. warns, Pyongyang will pay a price if it agrees to an arms deal with Russia. But what does that price mean?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: And slipping past police, officials in Pennsylvania expanding the search area for an escaped killer after admitting the convict was able to elude them again. They're now worried about what he might do next.

We're following these major developing stories and many more all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

KEILAR: We're following devastation and desperation in Morocco, where now over 2,600 people are dead after that 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck on Friday night. It was the strongest quake to hit this country in well over a century, and that epicenter of it was less than 50 miles from the historic city of Marrakesh in the Atlas Mountains.

And that means that terrain has been has significantly complicated rescue and recovery efforts. Roads leading to some of the hardest-hit villages are destroyed. You can see the Moroccan armed forces here arriving at the epicenter for the first time just a few hours ago, taking days to get there.

In some towns, people have been stranded for almost three days, begging for more help from the government.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): You can smell the corpses everywhere. It's a shame the authorities didn't help these people. Some people have received aid, tents, and food. However, some villages have not received anything, especially in the mountainous areas with dangerous roads. I hope that the authorities and civil society will show more

solidarity in these areas.


KEILAR: Many residents are living in makeshift camps, and officials are building triage field hospitals near some of the villages as a stopgap until larger transit routes are cleared.

CNN's Sam Kiley is on the ground, speaking to survivors and tracking those relief efforts.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another victim buried, returned to the earth that killed when it shook.

More than 2,000 people have perished in the worst Moroccan earthquake in over 100 years. Most of the deaths were in villages in the Atlas Mountains, where homes cracked and crumbled late on Friday night.

(on camera): The pancaking of these buildings down a side street here in Moulay Brahim killed 25 people. Three or four are still missing, believe buried in the rubble.

And this is a pattern that has been repeated throughout this province. And it looks very often like there's been some kind of airstrike, the collapsing buildings here actually leaving holes as if they have been hit by Russian bombs in Ukraine. But this has been an all-too-natural disaster.

(voice-over): At least three elderly people have been entombed here in the remains of their hotel and a fourth guest is missing. After the quake, Sami called his parents for a day-and-a-half. It rang out until the battery died too.

SAMI SENSIS, SON OF EARTHQUAKE VICTIMS: I'm here just because I have lost two of my best things that I have in this life, my parents. My father and my mother, I have lost them here.

KILEY: His grief turns to anger at the government, as it does for so many here.

SENSIS: They have no planification. Only they have words. It's a balloon of words, only that they have words. That's all.

KILEY: Aid is arriving, but slowly.

In Asni nearby, authorities tell me that 27 people were killed in the quake and 1,200 lost their homes.


(on camera): So, Fatima and her husband have said that, when they were in the house, she was in the bath, when this series of explosions broke out. They said there was no shaking of the ground. She's saying that it felt like the blast from a Kalashnikov automatic rifle, that this was like a sense that the place had been hit by a war.

They had no idea that they were suffering from an earthquake. Luckily for them they evacuated their family very rapidly. Nobody in their family was killed. But, in the village, there was -- 27 people were killed.

(voice-over): The house is now abandoned. But Fatima led a team of local women to find food and shelter for the homeless before any aid arrived, all the food here the result of private donations.

Many villages here remain isolated roads cut by landslides. Relief operations will focus on getting to them. Firefighters consider searching for bodies beneath the hotel. Their conclusion is disappointing. Amidst shocks and shattered masonry, it's just too dangerous to rescue the dead.

So, for now, Sami's parents will stay buried where they are.


KEILAR: Our thanks to Sam Kiley for taking us inside of Morocco in that report -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Such sad scenes there.

Well, right now, also overseas, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appears to be on this armored train bound for Russia to meet with the Russian leader Vladimir Putin. A South Korean government official tells CNN that Kim is believed to be traveling to Vladivostok, about 80 miles from the North Korean border inside Russia.

The White House is again today urging North Korea not to provide or sell arms to Russia, as U.S. officials warned that heir arms negotiations between those two countries are actively advancing. Russian Defense Minister Mr. Sergei Shoigu visited Pyongyang himself in July, hoping to buy artillery ammunition to bolster the war effort in Ukraine, Russia running short there.

U.S. officials tell us there are major concerns about what North Korea could get in return, and that Pyongyang wants technical help, not just for its satellite program, but also nuclear-powered submarines.

CNN's Melissa Bell is following the story for us. She's in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.

Tell us more about this. It's not exactly a sign of strength for Russia to need North Korea's help in the war at this point, but it appears to be getting it.


And this is something, as you say, that American officials have been warning against, just a few days ago in Kyiv, the American secretary of state speaking to just what you mentioned, the fact that this doesn't bode terribly well for the Russian president that he should be scrambling to meet with Kim Jong-un in search of ammunition to fuel this war here in Ukraine.

The American administration also saying, urging Pyongyang to stand by what had been public pronouncements that it would not be arming Russia during this war in Ukraine. And yet, as we're hearing, this train that you mentioned that is said to carry some 20 bulletproof wagons, it's not a very fast train, Jim.

What we understand is that it'll take it a good day to get to Vladivostok. We're hearing also from the Russian side confirmation that this meeting is going ahead in the form of comments that have been made by Dmitry Peskov, who's the Kremlin spokesman, to a Russian journalist a short while ago speaking of bilateral talks that are to go ahead and an official dinner that's to be held in Kim Jong-un's honor.

Now, what we understand is then that will be happening in Vladivostok. And, of course, the point is, and one of the reasons American officials have been warning about this, Jim, is that each side has something they can expect from the other, so, on the Russian side, very basic needs indeed, those munitions that I mentioned a moment ago, but also some of the raw materials to help Russia fuel its defense industrial base.

On the other hand, Pyongyang is after much more, it is said, sophisticated weaponry, things like advanced satellites and nuclear- powered submarine capability. With each side looking to get something from this, these much-feared talks do seem now to be going ahead, Jim.

SCIUTTO: No question. It comes on the heels, of course, on Russia reaching out to Iran for help.

Melissa Bell in Ukraine and the concerns, Boris, that these alliances grow, Russia with Iran, Russia with North Korea, and, of course, Russia with China.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and major implications, obviously, for the front lines in Ukraine.

So let's get some perspective now with retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. He's also a CNN military analyst.

So, Colonel, we have heard a bit about what both sides might be getting from an agreement. Walk us through it.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, Boris, this is one of the key things.

As Melissa was talking about, they want some stuff. So what does North Korea want? They want satellite capabilities. They're looking for something like the GPS system that we use. The Russians use something called GLONASS, which is a -- basically a positioning system using satellites.


They want to be able to use that, so that they can drive their weapons systems to greater accuracy. They also want capabilities for nuclear- powered submarines, because the North Koreans have just introduced another nuclear sub, they say. We're a bit skeptical whether or not it actually works.

But it is a platform for them to potentially bring nuclear weapons a lot closer to other targets, in addition to what they have right now. So it's a very key element of what the North Koreans are looking for.

SANCHEZ: And how about the Russian side?

LEIGHTON: Well, so let's take a look at what the Russians want, Boris.

And what you're looking at is a lot of different types of munitions. For Russia, artillery is the god of war. So the North Koreans conveniently have the same types of weapon systems that the Russians have, at least the older systems that the Russians use. And that includes the same caliber type of weapon, like a 152-millimeter rocket.

That would be something North Koreans have in abundance. They could use some of their stockpile to help the Russians with their efforts. Of course, raw materials, another big thing. And, of course, rockets and missiles, they have been delivering them all the time. Finished products, as well as the raw materials to make those products, are key elements there.


The question, I think, on everybody's mind, including Russia and North Korea, potentially, is, what is the United States going to do? Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, saying North Korea will pay a price. Sanctions haven't really done much to move Kim Jong-un. So what could the United States actually do here that would be effective?


So, the sanctions are usually the weapon of choice, if you will, in this kind of a situation. The issue that you run into, though, with sanctions, as you mentioned, really run out of effectiveness. So what could they do? We could mount, for example, a cyberattack against North Korea.

Not saying they're going to do that, but that is something that's in our arsenal that we could potentially do. There are other things that we could do potentially that would get closer to a conflict with them. But I don't think we would go that far.

But that is something that we would have to look at. We could also potentially go after other people that are connected to the North Koreans, maybe Chinese officials, Chinese businessmen, people that are facilitating these kinds of things, and as well as, of course, Russian businessmen that would be doing the same thing. SANCHEZ: And potentially some clandestine options that we won't hear

very much about.

Meantime, on the Ukrainian front, there's a disparity between the top U.S. general, Mark Milley, and officials in Kyiv over how much longer the Ukrainian counteroffensive can last, given that weather conditions are going to be changing very soon.

LEIGHTON: Yes, that's -- the chairman of the Joint Chiefs mentioned in a statement to the BBC that he believes they have about 30 to 60 days of running room for the counteroffensive.

That's because of weather changing. So, basically, what you're looking at is, in places like this, you have got cold fronts that would be coming into areas like here. You have got all kinds of things that could change. And, of course, it's a muddy season again. Just like the spring is, the fall is also a muddy season in Ukraine.

So one of the things that they would be looking at is actually changing the way in which they would ramp up weapon systems to this area. I think the chairman was basically incorrect in saying that this was a time limit that the Ukrainians have, but the Ukrainians know best the rhythms of the battlefield.

And the key thing is, with climate change, it's highly likely that the fighting season is extended anyways.

SANCHEZ: Well, history has shown us that war in this part of the world can get especially messy.

One more question, Colonel. There was a comment from the secretary of the Air Force that raised a lot of eyebrows. Let's listen to that sound bite now.


FRANK KENDALL, U.S. SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE: We're all talking about the fact that the Air and Space Forces must change, or we could fail to prevent and might even lose a war, not the kinds of war we have fought or been fighting for the last 30 years, but a war between modern great powers with enormous costs and consequences.

China is preparing for a war, and specifically for a war with the United States. Again, war is not inevitable, and no one can predict when or if it will occur. Our job is to deter that war and to be ready to win if it occurs.


SANCHEZ: The potential lynchpin of some conflict between the United States and China could be Taiwan. What do you make of the statements from the secretary?

LEIGHTON: So they're very similar in some respects to statements that were made previously by General Mike Minihan, who is the commander of Air Mobility Command. He raised a bit of a ruckus, if you will, when he made comments a few

months ago saying that his troops need to be prepared for a war with China. The Chinese, of course, reacted very strongly to that, thinking that this is very belligerent rhetoric. The key thing to think about, though, is, the military's job is to prepare for war, no matter where that war is.

This is -- China is one of the most likely countries that we would be fighting, given the geopolitical environment. And, of course, Taiwan is one of the key areas that we would potentially be fighting over. And we have to be ready for that. So the secretary's comments are basically right on track for what he needs to do to prepare his forces, both the Air Force and the Space Force, in order to combat a very rising foe like China.


SANCHEZ: Yes, rising and conflict -- or tensions, I should say, continue to rise, despite diplomatic outreach from the White House.

Colonel Leighton, always a pleasure to get your perspective. Thanks so much.

LEIGHTON: Thank you, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Brianna.

KEILAR: There's a new twist in the Pennsylvania manhunt. The escaped killer managed to change his appearance and slip through the search perimeter as he continues to outfox police. But someone from the killer's past is now helping the authorities. Will tell you who.

Also ahead, President Biden heading back to the U.S. after a trip to Asia that saw major diplomatic wins, but also left supporters of Ukraine disappointed.

And a new report shows the U.S. has been hit with more climate and weather disasters this year than any year on record. We will be taking a closer look at the numbers.


KEILAR: A new, much wider search area and a new look for the escaped Pennsylvania killer who has evaded capture for 12 days now.


The photo on the right is what police in Chester County say Danelo Cavalcante looks like now. Over the weekend, the 34-year-old 5-foot- tall prison escape somehow got past the search perimeter as well. And officials say he stole this delivery van and tried to make contact with some people that he knows asking for help. They were not home.

We're going to learn more about this soon as well, though. Authorities are planning a news conference here in the next hour.

We have seen CNN's Danny Freeman tracking all of this. He's been on every turn of this manhunt.

Danny, do authorities have an idea of where Cavalcante could be?

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Listen, Brianna, the short answer is no.

And as the lieutenant colonel who's been in charge of this case, keep saying: If I knew where he was, then I'd go and arrest him right now.

They are targeting the northern part of Chester County. It's probably about 30 miles or so north of where the prison has been. But this is the state of play right now. They are not searching in the perimeter that they focused so much time on, and they lost him once he slipped that perimeter.

Let me explain, though, because I -- in order to really drill down on the importance of this moment in this case, you have to understand where we were back on Friday. Remember, just a few miles from where we are at the command center,that was where the perimeter had been set up. There were the largest number of law enforcement officers that had been on the job for this entire manhunt just on Friday going into Saturday.

We saw people checking cars, checking trunks. That's the environment that Cavalcante was able to escape. So let's talk a little bit about what we learned yesterday. Cavalcante slipped that perimeter. And law enforcement said that he actually was able to steal a van from a dairy farm nearby, and it was because the keys were left in that van.

Then he drove more than 20 miles to the Phoenixville area. And, as you said, he tried to contact some of his known associates. Well, the associates did not offer him help, but we did get insight into what he was doing, because he was spotted on a Ring doorbell camera. And that's where we saw the most recent image change, clean-shaven, now wearing a green hoodie.

Then, yesterday law enforcement found the van. It was abandoned, though. Cavalcante was nowhere to be seen. Now, Brianna, I want to take a listen to what a former roommate of Cavalcante actually told one of CNN's affiliates over the weekend. You can hear the concern in his voice.


FRANCO, FORMER ROOMMATE OF CAVALCANTE: I had no idea he could do something like this he. Like I said, he was someone super shy, like really quiet. He would have -- he would drink his beers on the weekend, make barbecue, and working a lot.

Just for him to be caught, just so I can sleep, I can go live my normal life, everybody can feel safe again. And, yes, he has to pay for what he did.


FREEMAN: Now, of course, State Police say they wish that this had not happened. They wish that Cavalcante had not been able to slip their perimeter.

And they say that no perimeter will ever be 100 percent. But we still have a lot of questions. We're expecting a press conference in a little less than an hour at 2:00 behind me at command post. We will bring some of those questions to them -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Real quick, Danny, last sighting, last known sighting of Cavalcante was when and within the perimeter or outside?

FREEMAN: So, the last official sighting that we know of was back on Saturday night. It was that Ring doorbell camera well outside of the perimeter that has been here for almost two weeks.

That is the last official sighting, but maybe that will change. We will wait to see if law enforcement says they have spotted him since.

KEILAR: Yes, it does seem like, every time they have a press conference, there is another sighting. So we will wait to see that.

Danny Freeman live for us from Chester County, thank you so much -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: The American Red Cross is sounding the alarm. They have announced a national blood shortage, and they're asking for your help. We have details on that.

And, today, the nation marks the somber anniversary of a day America will never forget, the nation commemorating 22 years since the attacks of September 11. We're going to take you live to One World Trade Center, as the country remembers and reflects.

Stay with us.



SANCHEZ: Happening right now, President Biden is on his way back to the United States, where he's set to honor military service members on the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

The president is going to stop in Alaska on his way back from Vietnam, where he signed a strategic partnership agreement deepening ties with one of China's key neighbors.

Let's take you now to the White House with CNN senior White House correspondent Kayla Tausche.

So, Kayla, tell us more about this new partnership.

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, the two countries put past conflict aside to elevate their relationship to that special partnership status, putting the U.S. effectively on the same footing as China and Russia, who enjoy similar status with Vietnam. But the forging of deeper ties between the U.S. and Vietnam is meant

to serve as a counter to China, which has gotten even more ambitious and assertive in the region.

But, when President Biden was asked specifically whether there was a cold war dynamic afoot or whether this was meant to contain or isolate Beijing, he said no.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's not about isolating China. It's about making sure the rules of the road, everything from airspace and space.