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Violence Erupts Between Migrants And Polish Forces; France In "State Of Alert" After Spike In Cases; India's Top Court Takes Up New Delhi Pollution Issue; Gas Prices Soar As Germany Suspends Nord Stream 2. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired November 17, 2021 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, this is CNN NEWSROOM.
Coming up this hour, a border crisis becomes a border confrontation. Thousands of angry and frustrated young men trapped in limbo and going nowhere for days violently clashed with Polish security forces and CNN was there.
India's air pollution emergency smog and haze plaguing the Capitol and elsewhere so bad, schools and colleges ordered online, tens of millions of office workers sent home. Power plants shuttered and the air quality expected to get worse.
And China testing more missiles than every other country combined. All part of one of the biggest military buildups the world has seen in generations and sparking an arms race across Asia and beyond.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with John Vause.
VAUSE: They may be pawns in a geopolitical confrontation, but the desperation for some of the thousand migrants at the Belarus-Poland border is real and on Tuesday, that turned a fury.
Poland met that anger with water cannons and tear gas. Belarus claims that cannons fired toxic chemicals at the refugees. This as Poland's Defense Ministry accused Belarus of equipping the migrants to stun grenades.
NATO and the European Union accused Belarus of creating this crisis retaliation for earlier sanctions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DUNJA MIJATOVIC, COUNCIL OF EUROPE COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: The situation is evidently extremely complex and problematic. We can see enormous suffering of people that are left in limbo. It is absolutely unacceptable what Belarus is doing and how the people are manipulated.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: The E.U. is calling on Belarus to take urgent action to restore security while the United Nations is calling conditions at the border catastrophic.
CNN's Matthew Chance has our report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This humanitarian crisis in Belarus is now a physical assault on Europe's borders.
Migrants in desperate conditions here are trying to force their way in. Hurling rocks at Polish border guards who are pushing back and pushing back hard.
I just got blasted with a water cannon. I can tell you, the tension has really started to raise here as you can see, on the border between Belarus and Poland, you've got all these migrants angry at their situation. Throwing stones, breaking down the fences here on the border. Furious that they're not being allowed in to the European Union into Poland.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then give us flower, we will give them flower, but if they give us gas, we will give them stone.
CHANCE: At times, the violence seemed to surge out of control. Young migrants desperate to enter Europe toward the barricades in fury.
Well, last night, when we left this place, it was a peaceful scene. But now, the women and children have been pulled back and the young men angry have come to the fore.
Belarus is accused of orchestrating this crisis, directing vulnerable migrants mostly from the Middle East to provoke these scenes to make Europe look weak and inhumane.
What they got was a dangerous escalation on an international frontier.
They are throwing stones and you can see the Polish are responding with water out, with water cannon covering us in water. Sometimes that water is quite accurate (PH), it has some sort of pepper components in it and so, it's sort of sting in your eyes a little bit.
CHANCE: They're smashing rocks on the ground into smaller pieces and then they're using those rocks to throw at the Polish line.
But however, manipulated these people have been, their wrought feelings of desperation of having nothing to lose are real.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are fighting to stay alive.
CHANCE: To stay alive?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, to stay alive.
CHANCE: Will you go back --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to die -- we're going to die.
CHANCE: Will you go back to Iraq?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
CHANCE: But after these events, they may have no choice. Poland has made it clear it will not let them in. It's Belarus that may have to back down.
Mathew Chance, CNN on the Belarus-Poland border.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Belarusian forces have cleared the area outside the border checkpoint where migrants are camped.
An official say at least some were taken to a processing center to be given shelter and receive medical attention.
Authorities in Belarus say a decision has not yet been made on deporting the migrants.
Well, for more now, CNN's European Affairs Commentator, Dominic Thomas joins us from Los Angeles. Dominic, thanks for being with us.
DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Thanks, John.
VAUSE: So, back in 2015, about a million migrants arrived in Europe over the -- over that 12-month period, mostly from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq and that was a crisis.
In this instance, we're talking thousands, not hundreds of thousands of people trying to enter the E.U. via Poland.
Surely, there is a short-term solution here that does not involve water cannons and tear gas.
THOMAS: Yes, you're right, John, the situation has deteriorated dramatically. And what is clear is that Lukashenko from the very beginning, clearly understood the vulnerability of the European Union around this question of migration around the kind of the PTSD of 2015 in the way in which it impacted European politics because of the option it gave to far right political parties.
And it clearly does not want to set a precedent here by opening up its borders to neighbors that are willing to weaponize migrants in this particular way. It's clear that there are really two solutions at this moment.
First of all, they need to absolutely continue to pressure Lukashenko to stem the flow of migrants arriving into his country and Belarus. And I think the second aspect of that, as you said, we're talking
about thousands, not millions, as we were back in 2015. And either the European Union must work at processing these migrants and finding a safe haven for them or setting up some kind of international safe zone in which they can do a case by case analysis of what it is these individuals are, whether they're migrants, refugees or asylum seekers, and go about processing them.
VAUSE: And after these latest scenes of chaos on the Belarusian Polish border, we heard from Russia's Foreign Minister, he had this criticism of Poland. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): The behavior of the Polish side is completely unacceptable. I think the water cannons and tear gas and shots over the migrant's heads towards Belarus state, all of it reflects a desire to hide their own actions. And they cannot but understand that they violate all thinkable norms of the international humanitarian law and other international law norms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Always takes (INAUDIBLE) Lavrov with a grain of salt. But he does focus on what was a fairly harsh response by Poland.
And in the past, this sort of response has been encouraged by the E.U. for countries which are on its border as a way of deterring illegal immigration. You know, they've had to sort of eat their cake approach if you like.
THOMAS: Yes, and I think you're right, once again, Lavrov here is absolutely right, that when it comes to talking about Poland that currently finds itself at odds with the European Union over a number of legal justice related issues, particularly around the legal amendments that have been put through that allow them to protect their borders in this way, under the aegis of a party, the Law and Justice party that was elected to protect Polish identity.
And Lavrov is absolutely right, that the bigger context here is the international law and certainly, humanitarian standards have been flouted because of the greater issues of concern.
But having said that, the level of hypocrisy here from Lavrov is quite striking.
Over a week ago, one phone call to Lukashenko would have ended this. We all know that the President of Belarus serves at the pleasure of the Russian President Vladimir Putin, and I think that the responsibility ends there as well.
VAUSE: The Belarusian President warned of a possible escalation in this crisis while also denying any role in creating what is essentially a no man's land of human misery. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO, BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We haven't deployed any platoon or division at the border. The commander- in-chief hasn't given such order to the army, but we have plans to counter any aggression from their side.
We don't collect refugees from all over the world and don't bring them to Belarus as Poland has told the European Union.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Well, I guess he's being honest when he says they don't collect refugees from around the world, the truth is they mostly come from the Middle East.
Now, they are sort of back into a corner, it's all made worse by this sort of unbelievable denials over the last couple of days. How does he get himself out of this crisis?
THOMAS: Yes, well, he's got himself in a real mess here. I mean, he's engaging in sort of a great -- sort of, you know, revisionist sort of narrative here about how this crisis which he engineered, you know, ended up coming into place.
And he's already demonstrated a willingness to disrupt and to sort of increase polarization within the European Union.
His hope his ultimate goal was that this would pressure the European Union to reduce sanctions. And of course, we see that that has completely backfired.
At this particular stage, it's clear that under international pressure, what he needs to do and stop doing is incentivizing migrants coming based on false promises to his country in an attempt to cross over to the European Union. That's number one.
Now, the flip side of that coin is this awkward aspect, which is this sort of repatriation and sending people back to their countries of origins which seems to forget the fact that these already vulnerable populations, in many cases have spent thousands of dollars, perhaps even their life savings or their family savings to try and come to Belarus and enter into the European Union.
So, it's not quite that easy. But I do think that ultimately, at this particular stage, the greater geopolitical issues in the region involve Russia. They involve the whole Nord Stream 2 issue around natural gas pipelines. They involve Ukraine, they involve the Baltic states, and I think that the issue is now escalated and become so volatile, that it's really out of Lukashenko's hands and what we're going to be looking at the next few days and weeks is this relationship between the European Union and what role Russia plays in hopefully trying to resolve this crisis.
VAUSE: Russia, Russia, Russia. Dominic, thank you. Dominic Thomas there for us in Los Angeles.
THOMAS: Thank you.
VAUSE: New COVID restrictions are being rolled out in China and Europe to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Starting Wednesday, Beijing will allow just one flight per day from medium and high-risk areas. Anyone entering the capital must test negative for COVID.
Meantime, more German states are putting restrictions on the unvaccinated. If they don't get the shot, they'll need to prove they've recovered from the virus in the last six months to enter some public venues.
And two regions in France now requiring masks outdoors to slow the spread of new infections.
France is under a state of alert due to a spike in New COVID infections.
For now, there are no plans for a lockdown. Unlike other countries in Europe, which have started to reimpose tough restrictions.
We get the latest now from CNN's Melissa Bell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): These sparkling decorations in Parisian windows, a celebration of the return of the Christmas season, also returning the threat of more COVID restrictions.
SUZANNE HEUFPEL, PARISIAN RESIDENT (through translation): That's why we came here as soon as we learned that the decorations were up to make the most of what little free time we might have left.
BELL: Already, two regions in France announcing the return of mandatory masks in outdoor spaces. New infection rates in France are skyrocketing.
GABRIEL ATTAL, FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON (through translation): 10 days ago, the virus was taking the stairs. Now, it's in the elevator.
BELL: This new wave of COVID-19 already harshly impacting France's neighbors. Germany battling its worst infection rates since the pandemic began, again, imposing restrictions in Berlin. Allowing only people who've been vaccinated or who recently recovered from COVID-19 to enter restaurants, cinemas and sports facilities.
DR. LOTHAR WIELER, PRESIDENT, ROBERT KOCH INSTITUTE (through translation): We have to assume that the situation throughout Germany will get worse. And without additional measures, it will be unstoppable. BELL: Austria seeing their cases exploding, taking more extreme measures, placing some two million unvaccinated people on partial lockdown.
The new mandate, unvaccinated people in Austria age 12 and older can only leave their homes for work, food shopping, or emergencies.
ALEXANDER SCHALLENBERG, AUSTRIAN CHANCELLOR (through translation): If the incidents for vaccinated people is down, it continues to rise exponentially for the unvaccinated.
BELL: The lockdown which began on Monday enforced with random spot checks and police patrols being stepped up for at least the next 10 days. The move causing an outcry from some Austrians about the disparity of treatment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): I'm here today because I want to fight for my rights. These measures are absolutely discriminatory.
BELL: In the Netherlands, protests against lockdown measures announced last week amid a jump of new COVID-19 infections, reaching a tipping point over the weekend. With police firing water cannons on angry demonstrators.
BELL: Perhaps, most alarming about the rise of new infections across Europe, new cases striking areas with fairly high vaccination rates.
In the Netherlands, almost 85 percent of the adult population has been fully vaccinated. In France, that number is almost 75 percent, Germany more than 65 percent and Austria, almost 65 percent.
Leading many to wonder what if anything will be able to stop a seemingly never ending pandemic.
Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: At least one person has died after heavy rain and flooding triggered mudslides in British Columbia. Evacuations are underway across the state with hundreds rescued after they're left stranded on a major highway.
The storm system is also impacting the U.S. as it moves through the Pacific Northwest. Flooding has forced hundreds to leave their homes in Washington State. About 25,000 homes and businesses are without electricity. State of emergency has been declared.
Right now, India's Supreme Court is taking up the issue of pollution in the nation's capital. Thick smog has been choking New Delhi and its surrounding areas for days. And the government has been introducing new measures to reduce the toxic haze. Schools and colleges in and around the capital city will remain closed and work at all non-essential construction sites and thermal plants will be halted.
CNN's Vedika Sud live from New Delhi amid this (INAUDIBLE) super as I used to call them. It is thick, it is hazy. I imagine it's hard to breathe and the eyes hurt. And it's only getting worse.
VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER (on camera): It's only getting worse, John, before it can even get better. Those measures that you just mentioned along with a couple of others have been implemented with immediate effect from Tuesday night.
But this is very belated as what experts say, this should have been done in fact years ago. It always takes for the judiciary to step in for the executive to actually come up with some of these measures which are always temporary.
And in this case, like you mentioned, thermal plants also six of them out of 11 around Delhi will also be shut till the end of the month.
Now, the Supreme Court is once again resuming hearing on this matter. The central government as well as the Delhi government and other stakeholders will be in court shortly where they will present these measures before the Supreme Court, which once again had asked them to get their act together and get going with some of these remedies, short term and long term.
Currently, the Air Quality Index is very poor in Delhi, it's supposed to slip into the severe category again by this evening.
Now, according to the World Health Organization, zero to 50 levels is good when it comes to Air Quality Index 50 to 100 is satisfactory.
Now, in parts of Delhi over the last three weeks, the level has gone up to 600, 700, 400 intermittently and that's why breathing is so difficult.
The debate here, the worry here, the concern here in Delhi is its health versus livelihood. Here's what a Delhi resident had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IKHLAQ, AUTOMOBILE MECHANIC (through translator): There's definitely a problem. Restlessness and eye irritation are the worst. How can we escape from this? We have to stay home to escape pollution. If we stay home, how will we survive?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SUD: And it's not that Delhi has not risen to the occasion earlier, they have stepped up in the late 90s. John, you had public transport in Delhi moving to cleaner fuels, after which there was cleaner air to breathe.
It's not that we can't do it. It's not that the Delhi government and the central government cannot do it. There's politics involved, there's blame game involved and at the end of it, it's a Delhi resident who has the right to breathe clean air that is actually facing the brunt of this fierce battle always between the central government and the Delhi government which is currently taking place inside court and outside, John.
VAUSE: Vedika, my sympathies for you and everyone else living in that -- those conditions right now. It has to get better. Thank you for being with us.
Joining me now again from New Delhi, Anumita Roy Chowdhury, Executive Director of Research and Advocacy at the Center for Science and Environment. Thank you for being with us.
So, all these measures that we're talking about from shutting down 11 thermal power plants outside Delhi, a ban on construction, state home ethics on workers and students, they are temporary measures in the midst of a crisis.
Now this will address the fundamental problems of a country which is choking on air pollution. So, what is the long-term strategy here?
ANUMITA ROY CHOWDHURY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH AND ADVOCACY, CENTER FOR SCIENCE AND ENVIRONMENT: So, that's a very interesting story unfolding in Delhi John, that right now because we have a crisis, so that's the reason why we are looking at emergency action as a temporary measure so that you don't add more fuel to the fire when that's raging.
But that is not the magic bullet, so this is not just going to clear it up, you need the wind to blow this away.
But as you rightly said, the systemic solutions will really have to come from long-term measure, but the daily challenge is that what Delhi has done so far and other cities have not done, that has actually held Delhi to curb bench the pollution curb.
But even after that, the levels are still high, and it requires another 58 percent reduction to meet the cleaner standard.
So, Delhi is a city which has already shut down all this coal power plants with is entire public transport, local commercial transport to natural gas. There is a natural gas in the industry, dirty coal is not allowed in Delhi, they are phasing out old vehicles. All of these have happened in Delhi.
But even after that, there are big gaps in action. And some of the gaps are aimed for instance, the transport sector. Imagine a city exploding with 13 million vehicles flying every day. And the public transport which is very inadequate. Municipal service to collect waste, so that you don't burn the waste that is inadequate.
The use of dirty fuel in the larger NCR region, the use of coal in industry and power plants, that is still contaminating the entire air shed (PH). The challenge of Delhi is just not challenge of Delhi, it is a challenge of this region. If you look at India, right now through satellite, you will find that the entire Indo-Gangetic Plain in Northern India is wrapped in a blanket of smog.
And this is because this time of the year, when you don't have integrated plan for the entire region and aggressive action to address each and every source of pollution in the entire region, that's where we have to step up the action. All the state governments in this region have to come together, including the central government, because there's a federal system in which you have to take responsibility and shared responsibility.
VAUSE: (INAUDIBLE) very quickly because China or India account for two-thirds of the world's consumption and burning of coal. So, India is right up there.
The issue that India has too is that its domestic coal reserves has its high ash content, which burns dirty and makes the air pollution even worse. Is there any way that India can end this addiction to coal, without any kind of international financial and technological help?
CHOWDHURY: So, that's a larger issue for India right now. Because given the energy poverty, they really need the phase down and phase out strategy.
And already, as you know that in COP26, as well, India has given a certain commitment. And if we want, we're going to leverage that.
Now, coal is not going to disappear overnight. But they can certainly build a strategy. And that's what we are looking for. That if India is really looking at reducing a billion tons of carbon by 2030, reduce energy intensity of the economy by 45 percent. and scale up renewable energy to 500 gigawatts and make renewable energy 50 percent of the energy generation.
Then, that certainly will be an opportunity for us to do that phase down. But this will require a huge, deep structural changes across the country. And we certainly hope that this will happen.
But here, therefore, just not climate change. But as you can see, air pollution is a public health crisis. And if that becomes the driver of change, then I'm sure we will be able to push some of these issues in the future.
VAUSE: By the way, it's interesting when officials say we're waiting for the wind to blow this away, we're just going to blow it out to that other environment that doesn't infect us, but it still impacts everyone else around the world.
But Anumita, we are out of time, thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate your insights and you being with us today. Thank you.
CHOWDHURY: Thank you, John.
VAUSE: We'll take a short break. When we come back, Germany delaying approval for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline dealing with worries about heating prices in Europe.
VAUSE: Let's take a look at the Asia Pacific markets right now. And we can see that the Nikkei is down in touch by a quarter percent. Hong Kong down by one-third of one percent. Australia down by almost two thirds or just over two thirds of one percent. The only one up is the Shanghai Composite.
And they received a little bit of a boost after the positive summit between the United States and China but it didn't really last.
Let's take a look at the Futures. Dow futures pretty much flat, NASDAQ flat, S&P pretty much flat as well.
OK, natural gas -- natural gas prices in Europe are soaring after Germany suspended approval of the controversy Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia. That's fueling fears of high heating bills and rolling blackouts this winter.
CNN's Anna Stewart reports now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER (on camera): The suspension of this process is due to legal administrative issues according to Germany's energy market regulator, which says the pipeline operations in Germany must be run by an independent German subsidiary.
And while they say this is in Gazprom plans, it doesn't currently satisfy legal requirements. But of course, given the current tensions between Russia and the Ukraine and the E.U., it's not surprising that analysts and investors are seeing pipeline politics at play, it wouldn't be the first time.
The announcement pushed up European gas futures 10 percent on Tuesday. This controversial pipeline has long been opposed by the U.S., Eastern European nations, and of course, Ukraine, which fears Russia will use it as a geopolitical weapon.
The new pipeline completed earlier this year as a twin to Nord Stream 1 running under the Baltic Sea from Russia directly to Germany, controversially bypassing Ukraine, which means Ukraine would lose out on gas transit revenue. They could also lose influence in Western Europe, given stability in the country would be less critical to the continents' energy needs.
There are also concerns that Ukraine's role as a transit country for Russian gas has been an important deterrent against Russian interference. Russia's budget relies heavily on energy exports. The E.U. is already dependent on Russia for over 40 percent of its gas
and it could become more dependent still, should the pipeline be approved and lead to an increase in supplies?
At least, that is what the Kremlin has suggested, saying in recent weeks that if Germany were to quickly approve it, they could export more and ease the current gas crisis bringing prices down.
Analysts though are skeptical, saying it would likely take several months for the new pipeline to bring fresh gas online.
And you know what, this pipeline may not even lead to an overall increase in gas exports to Europe that simply take more of the exports away from transiting through Ukraine.
Anna Stewart, CNN, London.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: The President of Chile has survived an impeachment vote and will remain in office.
Sebastian Pinera's allies secured enough votes in the Senate Tuesday so he could stay in power after he'd been accused of tax evasion. This came from the Pandora papers, which revealed Pinera may have used his influence to secure the sale of a mining company in 2010.
Pinera is not up for reelection when Chileans go to the polls this coming Sunday. His term ends in March.
But one day after their high stakes summit, the U.S. President Joe Biden says talks with his Chinese counterpart led to progress on Taiwan, we'll have more on that in a moment.
And that meeting coming as tensions flare across parts of Asia Pacific. Analysts warning of a growing arms race, details in a live report.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: The U.S. president, Joe Biden, says progress was made on Taiwan during his virtual meeting with China's Xi Jinping. The two leaders spent a good part of the summit Monday discussing Taiwan, which has been a source of recent tensions amid Chinese military aggression.
Biden said Taiwan, quote, "makes its own decisions" and later clarified a comment when it came to independence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said that they have to decide. They, Taiwan, not us. And we are not encouraging independence; we're encouraging that they do exactly what the Taiwan Act requires. (END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: The rising tensions between Taiwan and China have come as concerns grow over an intensifying arms race across Asia. CNN's Will Ripley joins us now live from Taipei with details. It is an arms race, and it is a big one, and it is well underway.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And there's been a lot of concern at the rapid pace of China's militarization, particularly the nuclear arsenal, which is growing, believed to be growing at a very fast pace.
Beijing has long claimed that it's simply trying to catch up with the other world powers in the nuclear sphere: the United States and Russia. Now, after this summit, the U.S. is saying that there is the possibility of arms talks to defuse a potentially dangerous situation.
RIPLEY (voice-over): U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, meeting virtually this week as the world faces what analysts call a growing threat. An intensifying arms race across the Indo- Pacific. Potential flash points across the region raising the risk of a nuclear conflict, threatening the U.S., its allies and the world.
PETER LAYTON, VISITING FELLOW, GRIFFITH ASIA INSTITUTE: If you have a serious conflict, you could end up with nuclear weapons being used. And we're not talking atomic bombs. We're talking hydrogen bombs. And this is a different level of warfare entirely.
RIPLEY: The world's most assertive nuclear power, China. New satellite images suggest Beijing is building nuclear-capable missile silos, testing more ballistic missiles than the rest of the world combined, the Pentagon says, including what the U.S. calls a potentially game- changing hypersonic weapon, a claim China denies.
The Chinese navy, now the largest in the world, with a catch. Most of their warships are small, but they are getting bigger. A new aircraft carrier in Shanghai could launch early next year, with technology rivaling the larger, more advanced U.S. carrier fleet.
(on camera): How long is it going to take for China's navy to pose a credible threat to America's name?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they still need to have a lot of time.
RIPLEY: Are we talking years? Are we talking decades?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty to 30 --
RIPLEY: Twenty to 30 years?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty to 30 years.
RIPLEY (voice-over): Full-size mockups of U.S. warships dot the desert in Xinjiang, possibly for target practice, analysts say. China also flexing its flight muscles, flying warplanes near Taiwan in
The island's leaders warn cross-strait tensions are at 40-year highs. Taiwan racing to modernize its military. New ships, more missiles, billions of dollars in American-made weapons, all to guard against an invasion Taiwan's defense minister says could be possible by 2025.
A war that could involve the U.S. and other democratic allies, Taiwan's president Tsai Ing-wen told CNN last month in this exclusive interview.
(on camera): Is Taiwan's strategy to try to be able to defend for a period of time, before other countries could assist?
TSAI ING-WEN, TAIWAN PRESIDENT: We definitely want to defend ourselves as long as we can. But let me reiterate, it's important that we have the support -- the support of our friends.
RIPLEY (voice-over): Taiwan's closest friend, at least geographically, Japan, signaling support for Taipei. A thinly veiled warning for Beijing.
NOBUO KISHI, JAPANESE MINISTER OF DEFENSE: What could happen in Taiwan would likely be an issue for Japan, in which case, Japan would need to respond accordingly.
RIPLEY: Japan is staging its largest military drills in decades. Moving missiles, radar and troops to its southern islands, about 100 miles from the Taiwanese coast. Sending ships to the East China Sea, the site of territorial disputes with China.
Japan also facing a threat from North Korean missiles. Pyongyang believed to be ramping up production of uranium for its glowing nuclear arsenal.
South Korea speeding up its own weapons development, including submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Australia will get nuclear- powered submarines, part of a deal with the U.S. and the U.K. to counter China's rapid expansion, militarizing manmade islands in the South China Sea.
Another military buildup: in the Himalayas. The sight of deadly border clashes last year between China and India, another nation with nuclear weapons.
LAYTON: Military forces are definitely being -- being built up. Getting into those sort of -- those arms races like that is certainly a difficult path.
RIPLEY: A path charted primarily by Presidents Biden and Xi today and whoever leads tomorrow.
(END VIDEOTAPE) RIPLEY: So Will, I guess the question has always been not necessarily the number of ships and tanks and men -- and manpower, but the technology lead which the U.S. has always held over China in terms of military capability, is that gap -- that gap is now closing. How soon will it be before China essentially catches up to the United States and passes the U.S. in that aspect?
RIPLEY: You heard that one expert talking about the navy in particular saying decades, partially because China doesn't have the institutional knowledge to operate these high-tech aircraft carriers like the one that they're building with this catapulted technology that will allow them to launch planes more efficiently.
They have two other aircraft carriers in service right now, relying on older Soviet air technology.
Now, in the area of, you know, the air force, and particularly in space, China is catching up much more quickly. And also in the area of ballistic missiles and weapons such as that, they're really catching up. It might even be -- have surpassed the United States.
Because they actually have already deployed hypersonic weapons. These weapons that can travel five times at least the speed of sound and can evade radar systems as they move in for a target. Those hypersonic weapons, analysts say, will be particularly effective in a nuclear armed conflict.
So you can see the motivation here for the United States, which has long had concerns about China's rapidly growing arsenal, to move the progress that was made with Biden and Xi forward and start to have arms talks, as well.
The U.S. and Russia had actually urged China to join an arms treaty, but China's resisted because they say the size of their arsenal is still dwarfed by the United States and Russia.
So certainly, a lot of hardware, a lot of technology, a lot of weapons in this part of the world, and an urgent need to have discussions to try to bring all of this under control, John.
VAUSE: Will, thank you. Will Ripley there, live for us there in Taipei. We appreciate the report. Thanks, Will.
Still to come, an update on the Lekki toll gate shooting in Lagos, Nigeria and the role CNN played in an investigation into a massacre.
VAUSE: A follow-up now on our reporting into the Lekki toll gate shooting in Lagos, which is being described as a massacre by a judicial panel in Nigeria.
Their report findings repeatedly references the investigation done by CNN, which pieced together what happened when Nigerian security forces opened fire on unarmed protesters. We get an update now from CNN's Nima Elbagir.
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been much anticipated and much delayed, but finally, the panel of inquiry tasked with investigating what happened at Lekki toll gate in Lagos on October 2020 has admitted that yes, a massacre did take place, corroborating CNN's investigation at the time. These were our findings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
ELBAGIR (voice-over): People gathered at Lekki toll gate protesting against what they called systemic police brutality and corruption.
What they don't know is that the army is already on its way.
This is Bonny Camp, a military garrison on the south side of Lagos. We know through analyzing footage they left at 6:29 p.m., heading towards Lekki toll gate.
We can see here the Nigerian government forces approaching. The protesters are gathered on the other side of the gate. As Nigerian forces get closer, you can see shots.
At 6:43 pm, we start hearing gunfire. We know this from the time stamp and data on this video.
Here's another angle.
Nigerian authorities say they fired blanks into the air and not at protesters. But CNN obtained video that appears to show the army shooting toward the crowd. Here and at the top of your screen here.
In the midst of the chaotic scenes is D.J. Switch (ph), a Nigerian celebrity and activist, she is broadcasting live on Instagram.
D.J. SWITCH, NIGERIAN ACTIVIST And I wanted people to see what was happening. I didn't want anyone to come and -- and twist the story.
ELBAGIR: Witnesses tell CNN ambulances were stopped from entering by Nigerian authorities. You can see here people at the scene trying to conduct CPR.
(on camera): We were able to verify that these bullets were used by the Nigerian army and that the army used a combination of blank and live ammunition.
The commission verified our findings. In total, our investigation was cited by the panel of inquiries report 37 times.
Another key CNN finding, which the commission verified: that the CCTV footage was tampered with. This after a year of Nigerian government denials and allegations that CNN is fake news. So what happens now? Well, the commission has recommended that the
Nigerian government set up compensation for victims, that they sanction military and police officers present at Lekki toll gate on the night of the incident. And they set up a commission looking into human rights violations such as this one.
But survivors tell us that the government, which colluded to cover up the incidents of October 20th at Lekki toll gate, shouldn't be trusted.
Nima Elbagir, CNN, London.
VAUSE: Thank you watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. I'll be back with another hour of CNN NEWSROOM, 17 minutes from now. In the meantime, WORLD SPORT is up after a short break.