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Kim Appears To Be Headed To Russia For Putin Meeting; FDA Approves Updated COVID Booster Ahead Of CDC Meeting; Police: Escaped Killer Still Believed To Be In PA; Operation To Rescue American Caver In Turkey Nears End; Hard-Hit Mountain Areas Desperate For Aid, Rescues. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired September 11, 2023 - 15:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: The Pentagon says it is concerned that North Korea is weighing providing arms and military equipment to Russia as it appears that Kim Jong-un is on this armored train, as you see there, bound for Russia to meet Vladimir Putin.

South Korean government official tells CNN that Kim is believed to be traveling to the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok, about 80 miles from the North Korean border. The U.S. says there have been alarming signs of a growing cooperation between the two countries. Russia's defense minister visited Pyongyang in July in an effort to buy artillery ammunition for the war in Ukraine.

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

CNN Senior International Correspondent, Will Ripley, joins us now from Taipei.

A Kremlin spokesman has just given some details on this trip. I wonder, what does the Kremlin say, what does the U.S. believe about what Russia is asking from Ukraine and what it expects to give in return.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Kremlin isn't saying much, Jim, and for obvious reasons. If Vladimir Putin actually has to go to Kim Jong-un of North Korea, a global pariah no longer standing on his own, because Putin's right there in the same boat after his unprovoked war in Ukraine. And essentially, Putin asked Kim for weapons, the Russian military being exposed for its battlefield deficiencies, needing things like artillery and ammunition that Kim Jong-un is sitting on a huge stockpile of.

And, of course, Russia has ballistic missile knowledge, decades of institutional knowledge and experience and know-how that Kim wants as he continues to grow and develop his own nuclear program.

So Kim Jong-un not only continues to build up this legitimacy, if you will, sitting down with major global figures - of course, this all began, as you know, Jim, with the former President Donald Trump. Even though that diplomatic effort fell apart, Kim Jong-un certainly learned his lessons. And now he is riding on the exact same train that he rode to Hanoi, Vietnam, came back empty-handed after the failed summit with President Trump, and he's heading to Russia under very different circumstances, potentially securing a valuable deal with Russia.

They get cash for those weapons, cash that North Korea desperately needs and perhaps even more valuable. They get information and technology to continue to perfect these intercontinental ballistic missiles that they're testing at a dizzying clip, Jim.

SCIUTTO: No question and not unlike Russia's appeal for help from Iran as well for those drones in the war in Ukraine.

Will Ripley \in Taipei, thanks so much. Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Let's talk about this now with CNN Political and National Security Analyst, David Sanger, with us. So what is this signal to you that Russia is hitting up North Korea for weapons to fuel the war in Ukraine?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, a few things, Brianna. The first, as Jim just suggested, is they're shopping around. They've been to Iran for drones, now to North Korea for artillery. The second thing it suggests is that Kim Jong-un, who's been pretty well isolated, Biden administration hasn't spoken to him at all, has now suddenly found a way to be important again.

He had a brief moment in the sun with Donald Trump. You'll remember that President Trump said at the time that he had struck agreements that would result in North Korea beginning to give up its nuclear arms and some of its missiles. They not only didn't give up a single missile or a single nuclear weapon, they have added to their arsenal.


And now suddenly China and Russia, which had aided the effort to try to contain North Korea in past years, have basically pulled back and the Russians are making them relevant again. And not only are they making them relevant, they make them a little bit less poor, provide them with oil. And one of the things that Kim really needs is a way to bolster his missile program.

KEILAR: How does it make Russia look? How does this make Vladimir Putin look? And how does this make how much Russia can depend on China apparent?

SANGER: Well, Russia has come to the conclusion that China is with them with everything except what they need the most, which is arms. We believe the Chinese are sending technology. We believe that they are doing things that help Russia along, but they are not doing anything that the Russians - providing anything that the Russians can shoot at the Ukrainians. North Korea has got a big stock of arms that is useful for that. And

the Russians probably think, not without reason, that there is some justice in this because the United States arranged quietly to get 650,000 rounds of artillery to Ukraine from South Korea. They had to do it through a complex swap mechanism, but they did it.

So what we're discovering is that the way the Korean peninsula armed up on both sides with artillery for a future war, if there ever was one between North and South, is actually exactly the kind of arms Ukraine needs.

KEILAR: When the U.S. is warning North Korea on this, you have Jake Sullivan saying to Pyongyang that it would pay a price if they do this. What can the U.S. really do?

SANGER: It's a really hard question. We've had a lot of things we've said the North Koreans would pay a price to do. There aren't many sanctions left on North Korea. I mean, this is a country that the United States has been issuing sanctions for since the mid-1950s, not a whole lot left.

There are some military steps that the U.S. could do to bolster the relationship with South Korea, but already the U.S. has invited South Korea into their nuclear consultation group. In other words, the group that looks at how and when you might have to use nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula if the South was attacked. They already run military exercises with South Korea.

So unless we're willing to actually interdict these ships at sea, I don't really see a very high price that the U.S. can make North Korea pay.

KEILAR: David Sanger, always great to talk to you. Thank you so much.

SANGER: Great to be with you.

KEILAR: Boris?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: This just in, important information for all of us. The FDA just approved an updated COVID booster one day ahead of tomorrow's CDC meeting of the vaccine advisory committee.

Let's get right to CNN Medical Correspondent, Meg Tirrell.

So Meg, what needs to happen before this booster goes public?

MEG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, so the FDA and CDC both need to sign off before people can start getting their updated COVID vaccines. And as you said, CDC's group of outside advisors meets tomorrow to make specific clinical recommendations for who should get this updated shot. And then the CDC director is expected to sign off pretty quickly after that and then these vaccines could start going out really within the coming days in pharmacies and other health care settings.

And so some things to know about this updated COVID booster. It's been cleared for people ages six months and older, for people who are at least five years old, the recommendation is wait at least two months from your previous COVID vaccine shot. For people under five, it really depends on how many vaccines you've had and when you got them.

This targets a strain of the virus known as XBB.1.5, which is one of the recently circulating strains. And the FDA cleared vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, which are both mRNA vaccines. There's a third maker, Novavax, which is not yet cleared, but is expected to be potentially sometime in September. That would offer a different technology known as a protein-based vaccine.

And Boris, this approval comes as we are in a bit of an uptick of COVID cases right now. Hospitalizations are about 16 percent higher in the most recent week for COVID. This is really an uptick that began in early July and we're still in it right now. And so we're going to see what the CDC advisors say tomorrow about who specifically should go out and get their boosters. But this has been cleared for everybody over six months of age. Boris?

SANCHEZ: Yes, good idea to stay up to date, especially with winter on the way.

Meg Tirrell, thank you so much. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Still to come, an escaped killer now 12 days on the run. Police in Pennsylvania explaining why he was able to slip past their perimeter over the weekend or at least trying to.

Plus, an ongoing rescue operation, an ailing American trapped for days in a Turkish cave. Rescue teams now say he could be out in the coming hours.

And later, a war game to study how a conflict between China and Taiwan could impact the global economy. That and much more ahead on CNN NEWS CENTRAL.



SCIUTTO: Just in the last hour, Pennsylvania State Police tried to defend their work after an escaped murderer was able to slip past their perimeter over the weekend. Now the search area for the killer has expanded by many miles beyond the Chester County Prison he crab- walked out of 12 days ago. And Danelo Cavalcante has, we can tell from new images, changed his appearance, shaving his beard, wearing new clothes.

A native of Brazil, Cavalcante was sentenced to life in prison for stabbing his ex-girlfriend 38 times. The state police also revealed that Cavalcante's sister is now headed for deportation.


LT. COL. GEORGE BIVENS, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: The sister is an overstay and she chose not to assist, and because of being in an overstay status, she has been entered into a deportation proceeding and is being detained at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She chose not to assist, now you wanted her to help you and she did not.

BIVENS: She has not assisted.



SCIUTTO: Well, they got her, they didn't get him.

CNN's Danny Freeman was at the news conference that ended just a short time ago.

And Danny, do they have any idea where he is? I mean, he broke through what they said they were confident was the perimeter he was inside of. And clearly, that wasn't true. So what is their level of confidence now they know at least the general area that he's in?

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Listen, Jim, I've been covering this story basically since this man, Danelo Cavalcante, broke out of jail. And that level of confidence, I would say, has not wavered publicly. But if you look at the perimeter and just how this search has grown and grown and grown, I think that tells the story of - the reality of the story of where police believe Cavalcante is.

It started out as a two-mile radius just south of the Chester County Prison, which is only a few miles away from us right now. Now, we're at this point where there really is no perimeter. Police are saying, we believe that Cavalcante is in Pennsylvania. We believe Cavalcante is still in Chester County.

But the reason, at least publicly, they're saying that they believe those two things is because they have no evidence to suggest yet that he has left. But make no mistake, the last sighting of Cavalcante that has been confirmed was back on Saturday night when they caught him on that ring doorbell camera. And that was after Cavalcante broke out of the near-to-here, near-to-the-command post perimeter that had been established for many days.

He was caught on that ring doorbell camera after he stole a dairy farm delivery van, drove it more than 20 miles away from here to the Phoenixville area and then he was trying to solicit help from other acquaintances of him.

Now, interesting new bit of information we learned from this press conference, the police say that these were not friends of his. These were not people that Cavalcante, as far as they know, have been in regular conversation. They said it's been quite a few years and they say that that - they, meaning police - say that that means that he's getting desperate.

He is not able to reach close friends or close acquaintances. He has to reach out to acquaintances from years ago. But Jim, I want you to take a listen to what Lt. Col. George Bivens, who's been leading this investigation of state police, what he said about why he believes Cavalcante is still in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.


BIVENS: I have no reason to believe that he is not. I don't believe he has the resources to get out of Pennsylvania. And again, other pieces of information that we have generated within this investigation lead me to believe that he is still here.


FREEMAN: And the last thing I'll say, Jim, is that the U.S. Marshal Service now says they're playing the long game, but they do say that the advantage was Cavalcante in the woods. They've pushed him out. They feel like the advantage has now shifted to law enforcement. We shall see. It's day 12th, Jim?

SCIUTTO: All right. It certainly would appear he has the - that she's still on the run. Danny Freeman, Chester County, Pennsylvania. Thanks so much, Boris?

SANCHEZ: A race to save an American man trapped in a cave in Turkey may have just entered its final stage. This is new video of that rescue underway. Rescuers believe he could be out of the cave within the next few hours.

Remember, 40-year-old Mark Dickey fell ill in the third deepest cave in Turkey about a week ago. He was suffering intestinal bleeding. Since then, more than 150 rescuers have been involved in a complex operation to pull him onto a stretcher and bring him to the surface from depths of more than thirty six hundred feet.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh joins us now.

So, Jomana, where does the rescue stand? What's the latest on how he's doing?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, as we are hearing in the past hour, as of about 2 PM Eastern Time, Turkish rescuers and the Turkish Caving Federation are saying that this operation now has entered its final phase. They believe this is the final stage and Mark Dickey, they say, is just over three hundred feet as of an hour ago from the surface of the cave.

And they are hoping that he is going to get out of there in the next few hours, potentially, they say, around 5 PM Eastern. But we need to keep in mind, of course, this is a very fluid situation. This has been a very complex operation, so things could change.

This, of course, operation began on Saturday. It is a multinational effort with various rescue groups from different countries that have been working to get Mark Dickey out of that cave where he fell ill at about three thousand feet from the surface. And as you mentioned, this is Turkey's third deepest cave. These are

very narrow and winding passages, making it very difficult to just put him on a stretcher and get him out of there. So what they did was they divided this rescue into seven different phases. You had the different rescue groups from the different countries setting up camps at each of these levels at about seven levels.


And right now, we understand he got to and has started moving from the last point, getting to - moving towards the surface, because what they've been doing so far is move, stop, rest and move again. And what we understand right now is happening. There's no stopping or resting after this. They are going to work on getting him out of there in the next few hours.

And Boris, as we've heard from Mark Dickey himself in a video statement a couple of days ago, as we have heard from Turkish and European rescue groups, they say that he's in stable condition. His condition has continued to improve. The bleeding as a result of the gastrointestinal bleeding that began just over 10 days ago, that has stopped.

And despite all that, they're hoping as soon as they get him out of there, they're going to get him on a chopper and move him straight to Mersin Hospital in southern Turkey.

SANCHEZ: While the homes stretch, we will keep watching it closely. We appreciate the update.

Jomana Karadsheh, thanks so much. Brianna?

KEILAR: When we come back, we are live from Morocco, where desperate search and rescue operations are underway after a devastating earthquake. Stay with CNN NEWS CENTRAL.



KEILAR: Frantic rescue and recovery operations underway for the third straight day in Morocco as residents survey landscapes that look apocalyptic. The strongest earthquake in at least 120 years in Morocco has now killed more than 2,800 people. But that initial destruction is only part of the danger. The quake's epicenter was in the Atlas Mountains, which means rough terrain. It means destroyed roads. It means that rescue efforts have been bogged down and many people are stranded.

Case in point, the Moroccan armed forces only got boots on the ground at the epicenter a few hours ago. The government response now facing mounting criticism from locals.

Let's get this - let's get the very latest now with CNN's Nada Bashir. She is there on scene.

Nada, you've been talking to people there. What are you hearing?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, Brianna, you're absolutely right. There is a real sense of frustration in some of the more remote areas, some of the villages hardest hit by Friday's earthquake. We're currently in Amizmiz and you can see behind me there has been an outpouring of support. These makeshift camps have been set up for those impacted by the earthquake who lost their homes.

But earlier today, we were further south to one of the villages, which is more remote, more severely impacted by the earthquake. And when we got there, we spoke to people who told us that the rescue teams and the humanitarian relief teams have only just arrived today.

Over the last three days, many of these families have been digging through the rubble with their bare hands, desperate to find loved ones buried beneath the destruction. We spoke to one family waiting desperately as the search and rescue teams combed through the rubble in silence, of course, waiting to hear a noise, waiting to hear the voices of their relatives.

And they told us that this has been a complete disaster. They have lost everything. One woman telling us she has lost 19 members of her family in this disaster. And, of course, this is just the beginning. Many of these areas are too remote to reach.

This was one of the villages that have - that had their access blocked because of the roads, because of the damage sustained as a result of the earthquake. They are very high in the mountains, small villages.

And as you can imagine, the infrastructure there is not set up for this kind of response. We are, however, beginning to see teams reaching these - those locations now. We have seen several international teams, in fact, including teams from France, Spain, Qatar, as well, on the ground there, some from the United Kingdom, providing that urgent relief.

But when we spoke to rescuers on the ground, the message that we heard from many of them is that this is becoming a recovery effort. They have lost all hope in many of these areas of finding survivors. Brianna?

KEILAR: It's just such a critical point in time as we start to see those hopes dim.

Nada Bashir, live for us from Morocco, thank you for that report. Boris?

SANCHEZ: For more on the rush to save lives in Morocco, let's bring in the Executive Director of Doctors Without Borders, Avril Benoit.

Avril, thank you so much for being with us. I'm wondering what you're hearing from your crews on the ground and what kind of injuries they're treating.

AVRIL BENOIT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS: Well, our teams arrived on the ground as of Saturday, and we have several that have gone to different areas starting in Marrakech, going up into some of those villages in the High Atlas. To be able to do assessments, we need to have a coordinated effort with the local health providers.

What we found in villages such as Amizmiz is a clinic that was really overrun by early light. In the morning on Sunday, more patients started to come in. They had been able to refer by ambulance some of the more severe cases, the severely injured people to Marrakech for surgery.

But what we could see is that already that medical team of Moroccan physicians, nurses in that small clinic had been working nonstop. They are dedicated to being there for their people. They were using up the medical supplies, the pharmaceutical supplies that they had already on hand, and it was looking like they were exhausted and beginning to run low.


So our team is there to offer support. Obviously, it has to be coordinated with the officials.