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Pentagon Releases Video Of U.S. Drone's Encounter With Russian Jets; France In Turmoil As Government Rams Through Pension Reform Without Vote; Israelis Step Up Protests After Netanyahu Rejects Compromise; FSB Document Lays Out Russia's Long-Term Plan In Moldova; New Zealand And U.K. Announce TikTok Ban On Government Devices; Chinese Study: Pyongyang Missile Could Reach U.S. In 33 minutes; Storms Stretch From Texas To East Coast. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired March 17, 2023 - 01:00   ET




KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: Hello there. I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong and ahead right here on CNN Newsroom. The U.S. released his video it says proves a Russian jet clipped its drone over the Black Sea. What military maneuvers both sides are making now.

Fresh protests as France uses what some are calling a constitutional crowbar to force through an unpopular pension reform plan.

And that massive blob of stinky seaweed that was spotted in the Atlantic has reached a popular tourist destination and the tourists are not happy.

And we begin this hour with what the U.S. false proof that the Russians are lying about that drone incident over the Black Sea. Now the U.S. military has released footage from the drone showing the encounter they say it doesn't clearly show the Russian jet hitting the drone, but it does show damage to his propeller. A Russia claims the MQ-9 Reaper drone lost control and crashed into the Black Sea near Ukraine.

A U.S. official reports that Russia has recovered some small pieces of the aircraft. Russian's foreign ministry says it is important to keep the lines of communication open following the incident. Here is U.S. State Department spokesperson.


NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: What happened is that they came into contact we were forced to bring this drone down. Ultimately, we do not want to see incidents like this because they're dangerous. They're reckless. They have the potential to be exculpatory.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LU STOUT: Now the U.S. says it is assessing its drone operations in the Black Sea region and Ukraine's military reports and increased Russian presence in the area. Now we have more now from CNN's Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): High over the Black Sea a U.S. spy drone points its camera backwards towards its own tail, a Russian fighter jet closing fast on a much slower MQ-9 Reaper. The Russian jet then begins dumping fuel as it passes by the drone, the clouds of fuel vapor and crucially the spinning propeller clearly visible in the video after the pass.

The Russian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter then flies by on another pass dumping fuel once again the jet comes even closer and the video pixelate when the Russian fighter collides with the U.S. drone. When it comes back online, you can see the propeller with a bent blade damaged in the impact. In these side by side images, you can see the propeller before and after operating and damaged.

GEN. MARK MILLEY, U.S. JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: We know that the intercept was intentional. We know that the aggressive behavior was intentional. We also know was very unprofessional and very unsafe. The actual contact of the fixed wing Russian fighter with our UAV the physical contact with those two, not sure yet that remains to be seen.

LIEBERMANN: The video undercuts the Russian narrative of what happened during the encounter. The Pentagon says lasted 30 to 40 minutes in total. Russia claimed there was no physical contact.

ANATOLY ANTONOV, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE US: It was no collision you see that? The problem is that we didn't content to this job. We didn't start a firing. It's very important.

LIEBERMANN: And CNN has learned the intercept was at the direction of some of the highest levels of the Russian Ministry of Defense according to two U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence. But the official said there was no indication Russian President Vladimir Putin knew of the planned aggression in advance.

Russia has already reached the crash site some 80 miles southwest of Crimea, two U.S. officials tell CNN. They have been able to recover some debris from the wreckage but the U.S. downplayed the significance of the drone remnants, saying there's probably nothing left of real value.

LIEBERMANN (on camera): Following the collision between the Russian jet and the U.S. drone, the military began conducting an assessment of U.S. drone operations over the Black Sea that's according to three officials familiar with the matter. It's a look at what's gained, what's risked, the patterns, the routes of these drone operations to find out how to continue and where to continue.

We've also learned that this isn't a pause in any way shape or form. In fact, at least once since the collision between the Russian jet and the U.S. drone, U.S. operated the same type of drone another MQ-9 Reaper in the same area as the previous flight likely to find out and get a better look at Russians trying to move towards the wreckage site and collect some of that debris. Oren Liebermann, CNN at the Pentagon.



LU STOUT: Now the Russian installed leader of the occupied parts of the Donetsk region says that there are no signs of Ukrainian forces giving up on the city of Bakhmut, but he claims that the city's only remaining supply line is coming under stronger Russian fire in that grueling ground battle. Ukraine is getting some positive news about the fight for its skies. David McKenzie has more.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): This is a moment Ukrainian soldier downs a Russian jet near Bakhmut, according to Ukrainian authorities, as both sides are publicly confident in their battle to control the city. With fewer than 3, 000 civilians remaining, Bakhmut has been effectively destroyed amid the ongoing Russian offensive, but Ukrainians are unwilling to let go despite their heavy losses.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): There was a clear position of the entire command, strengthen the sector and destroy the occupiers to the maximum.

MCKENZIE: To counter the onslaught, Ukraine needs equipment and ammunition. President Zelenskyy has long called for fighter jets in a significant move today. Poland says it will provide several of its Soviet era MiG-29 combat planes in the coming days.

ANDRZEJ DUDA, POLISH PRESIDENT (through translator): We will hand over four aircrafts to Ukraine. The remaining machines are being prepared in service for handover.

MCKENZIE: A move Ukraine hopes will inspire others to speed up their support.

OLAF SCHOLZ, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): It's particularly important to quickly provide Ukraine with the necessary ammunition.

MCKENZIE: For both sides, the situation on the front line remains complicated. And troops from Russia's Wagner private military group have made very limited gains in the last week in Bakhmut. Gins that U.S. military officials say are coming at an enormous cost.

MILLEY: Right now there is intense fighting in and around Bakhmut, and the Russians are making small tactical advances, but at great cost.

MCKENZIE: According to the American research group, the Institute for the Study of War, these small advancements at the great expense of manpower, artillery and equipment may hinder Wagner's ability to surround the city. Its chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has recruited as many as 40,000 prisoners for this fight, according to a White House official has repeatedly criticized Moscow over their lack of ammunition to supply his fighters. That is mercenaries a holding firm persisting with it offensive in and around Bakhmut, and so are the Ukrainian troops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The enemy constantly attempts to attack us, and we defend our positions quite effectively. We've been standing here for quite long already, and our brigade hasn't given up any positions.

MCKENZIE: A show of defiance as Ukraine hopes it will get more military support in time for a possible counter offense. David McKenzie, CNN, Kyiv.


LU STOUT: OK, for more analysis we're joined now by Malcolm Davis. He's a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. He joins us from Canberra. Very good to have you on the program. Good to see you. The U.S. military has released this video of the Russian jet crashing into one of its drones over the Black Sea. This is less than a minute of footage that was released even though the confrontation lasted much longer than that. Malcolm, what strikes you about the video?

MALCOLM DAVIS, SENIOR ANALYST, AUSTRALIAN STRATEGIC POLICY INSTITUTE: Well, look, I think that the inset was clearly aggressive and provocative. The very fact that the two Su-27 flew directly at the drone releasing fuel was designed to perhaps explode the drone by ingesting the fuel into the drones engine and then causing it to catch on fire that didn't work. And then you see that Su-27 coming in releasing its fuel and then it crashes into the drone.

Now, I think that the U.S. military commentator was correct. We don't know whether that pilot intended to collide with a drone, or wherever it was simply sloppy flying on the part of that flight, that pilot. But essentially, it is a provocative, aggressive act on the part of the Russians that was designed to essentially send a warning to the U.S. to back off in the Black Sea, even though that drone was flying in international airspace.

LU STOUT: Got it. So this action was aggressive. It was provocative, but whether or not the Russian action was deliberate, or accidental that remains an open question.

DAVIS: That's correct. Yes, I think that only the Russians knew what they were doing in that intercept.


DAVIS: So we may never know what the intentions of that Russian pilot were. But clearly we do understand the intentions of the Russians in general in that region in the sense that they sought to provoke and challenge a U.S. military asset in international airspace.


LU STOUT: Yes. Meanwhile, Poland is sending four Soviet era fighter jets to Ukraine, and what can you tell us about these assets?

DAVIS: Well, essentially, is a MiG-29 fulcrums. They're old aircraft, so they're certainly not cutting edge. But I think what's important about that is that Poland is essentially breaking down the dam against supplying Ukraine with more advanced combat aircraft.

The Polish side is saying this is the first of more aircraft that are coming. And I think that what it does is it increases pressure on the U.S. and its allies to think about the F-16 going to Ukraine, because those F-16s will be far more capable than the MiG-29s. They would give the Ukrainians the ability to essentially strike deep in against the Russian rear, particularly in terms of attacking their logistics and their long range fires, and have some charts of defending Ukrainian airspace against the sort of drone threats that Ukraine is facing now.

So I think that it's an important political step by Poland to supply those MiG-29s. What comes next hopefully, is the supply of much more capable F-16s.

LU STOUT: Yes, it's an important political step. It's deeply symbolic. But do you think it will move the needle in terms of -- in terms of the war effort, you know, the jets will boost Ukraine's air defense, but will they be decisive? As you said they will break the dam. Will this break the dam to bring in more assets that will be decisive in the war in the favor of Ukraine?

DAVIS: Well, we've already had some movement there in terms of the Western decision to supply tanks, main battle tanks to Ukraine, that the fighters are clearly next on the agenda. The Ukrainians have been asking for attacking missiles, which would give them a much deeper strike capability using a HIMARS.

I do think that what's happening is that the United States and Europe basically have Ukraine's back. The Biden administration is saying for as long as it takes. But there's real concern also about avoiding escalation into a wider war if the U.S. and its allies were to provide more capable weapons to the Ukrainians.

The challenge is that if they don't provide those weapons, then it's going to make it more difficult for the Ukrainians to actually decisively win this war. And the greater risk is you end up with a stalemate, that then actually benefits the Russians because they can claim a victory, they have a chance to then rebuild their forces to go again in two or three years time and launch another war, or to be able to essentially, menace NATO, NATO's Eastern frontier elsewhere.

So, I do think that the Biden administration and NATO need to recognize that there needs to be a decisive victory by Ukraine in this war. And we need to push forward towards that rather than simply giving the Ukrainians the bare minimum that they need in order to essentially hang on by their fingernails.

LU STOUT: Malcolm Davis, we'll leave it at that. Thank you, sir, very much indeed for joining us.

Now, after weeks of strikes and rallies across France, the French president has pushed through an unpopular pension reform plan, igniting tremendous anger.

Clashes and protests broke out in Paris and other major cities. The demonstrators are furious over the retirement age being raised from 62 to 64 for most workers, retiring at 62 with a full pension has long been a deeply cherished right in France. Union leaders are already organizing a new strike for next week.


CATHERINE PERRET, LEADR WITH CGT UNION (through translator): Given the support from a vast majority of the population that has mobilized for weeks, the unions continue to independently demand the withdrawal of this reform with calm and determined actions. They have decided to call for a new day of strikes and demonstrations to be held on March 23rd.


LU STOUT: Now the contentious reforms that were supposed to be voted on by the National Assembly where the bill would have been defeated. So the Macron government is using special constitutional powers to enact the bill. The lawmakers realize that their vote was being skipped, they jeer the prime minister.

And some even sang the National Anthem of the prime minister who delivered the news came face to face with the backlash.


ELISABETH BORNE, FRENCH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I wasn't angry. You know, I was very shocked. It reflects the fact that a certain number of opposition groups do not respect our Institute. Some of them have said it clearly they want chaos in the assembly and in the street.



LU STOUT: And there was chaos in some French streets as they filled with workers and rage by the government's tactics. CNN's Jim Bittermann has this report from Paris.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): For weeks, the protests and strikes have continued trying to stop the government from enacting changes to the French retirement system, changes which would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 years old.

Thursday, the French Parliament was meant to vote on the new law, which had already been passed by the French Senate. But before the vote in the lower house, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said the government had counted votes and realized that it would lose.

The prime minister went before the National Assembly and announced that there would be no vote, that the law would be enacted by decree something allowed by the French constitution, but something that further enrage the opposition.

BORNE (through translator): We cannot bet on the future of our pensions, this reform is necessary. It's also because I am attached to our social model and because I believe in parliamentary democracy. It is your reform on Parliament text, fruit of a compromise between the two assemblies, the time ready to engage my responsibility.

BITTERMANN: Outside the chamber where protesters had gathered, there was further outrage that went on for hours. The spontaneous demonstration that moved Place de la Concorde in central Paris and was finally broken up by police using a water cannon and tear gas.

The prime minister and our government now face the possibility of a no confidence vote, which could bring down the government if it succeeds. And a French joint union committee announced plans for another round of strikes and demonstrations next Thursday, to keep up the pressure on the parliamentarians to vote against the government plan. Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.


LU STOUT: Protests intensified for another day in Israel against the government's plan to overhaul the judicial system.

In Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and cities across the country, crowds packed the streets and express their discontent. A protester say the plan legal reforms would weaken the country's courts and erode the judiciary's ability to check the power of the other branches of government.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the proposed changes while in Berlin on Thursday for meeting with the German leader. Mr. Netanyahu insists the reforms are meant to bring Israel's democracy into line with Western democracies. Chancellor Olaf Scholz says Germany is deeply worried about Israel's legal overhaul.


OLAF SCHOLZ, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): Prime Minister Netanyahu also informed me about the judiciary reform that his government is planning in which is also being discussed very controversially in Israel. As partners who share democratic values and close friends of Israel, we are following this debate very closely with great concern and I do not want to conceal this.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: The ideas that are presented in Israel as though this is a break with democracy is not true. Israel was Israel remain a liberal democracy, not different and as strong as vibrant as it was before and as Europe is today. We are not going to deviate from that one bit.


LU STOOUT: Mr. Netanyahu shortened his visit to Germany as he is facing growing pressure back home. And critics say the proposed additional reforms from Israel's right wing government amount to a constitutional crisis. CNN's Hadas Gold reports from a student led protest in Jerusalem.


HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT (on camera): We are dozens of protests across Israel. Another massive day of disruption, Israeli taking to the streets in the tens of thousands protesting against this massive judicial overhaul flag by Benjamin Netanyahu whose government.

We're here actually at a student protests the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and many others (INAUDIBLE) what they see is the beginning of the end of Israeli democracy if this overhaul goes through.

At its core, this overhaul would not only allow the Israeli parliament to overturn Supreme Court decisions, it would also drastically change how judges are appointed in Israel. But supporters of the reform say that it's sorely needed that it's been lacking for a long time that will help rebalance the branches of the Israeli government.

Last night, the Israeli President Isaac Hertzog put out his own compromise proposal, warning that if a proposal -- if a compromise is not read the country could be on a break of a civil war.


ISAAC HERZOG, ISRAELI PRESIDENT (through translator): I'm going to use a phrase I haven't used before an expression that there is no Israel who is not horrified when he hears it. Whoever thinks that the real Civil War of human lives is a limit that we will not reach has no idea, precisely now in the 75th year of the State of Israel. This is within touching distance.

GOLD: But the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flatly rejecting the compromise proposal saying it doesn't do enough, and he says it would only perpetuate what he believes is the current problem with the judiciary. Now the question will be what will Benjamin Netanyahu whose government do next? Will they push forward with their very speedy unilateral action trying to get it done within the next few weeks, potentially even a few days? Or will they possibly potentially soften their legislation just a little bit to help tamper down these very fervent emotions that we're seeing here on the streets of Israel? Hadas Gold, CNN, Jerusalem.


LU STOUT: Now still ahead, some of the biggest banks in the U.S. are coming to the rescue of a smaller competitor details on their $30 billion dollar lifeline for First Republic. Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LU STOUT: Welcome back now turmoil in the world banking sector has sent financial markets on a wild ride this week. Let's take a look at Asia Pacific markets and how they're performing right now. I'll bring up the live data for you and you can see the Nikkei is up 1.2 percent. Here in Hong Kong the Hang Seng is gaining about 1.6 percent. Meanwhile, the Shanghai Composite on the rise up 1.4 percent.

Now Wall Street responded well, to news of a $30 billion lifeline for the struggling First Republic Bank, we're keeping an eye on U.S. futures. See the Dow is just down a touch lower point zero 2 percent. Nasdaq futures are getting almost two tenths of 1 percent. The S&P 500 futures gaining almost a 10th of 1 percent. Shares of First Republic soared on news of the cash infusion from the likes of Citi, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and more. CNN's Rahel Solomon has details.


RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Two major developments Thursday on the banking front helping calm the nerves of investors. 11 banks now stepping up to provide a financial lifeline to First Republic Bank, the regional U.S. bank facing significant challenges over the last week, similar to those that led to the demise of Silicon Valley Bank including customers rushing to withdraw their money.


The bank is now stepping up include JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo who announced Thursday they are each making a $5 billion uninsured deposit into the bank. Also stabilizing markets today news that Credit Suisse will be borrowing 50 billion francs from the Swiss Central Bank that sent it shares surging.

Now this is a major development for the larger economy because Credit Suisse is considered a systemically important bank for the global markets. And that just means it's too important and too big to fail. Since SVB's troubles began last week, markets have been on a wild ride posting volatile swings.

So what's ahead, Brian Levitt, a Global Market Strategist for Invesco, that's an independent investment management firm tells me we may not be out of the woods with regards to potentially seeing other bank challenges. However, policymakers stand ready to provide support and the decline in inflation and the rate hikes should provide some optimism. Rahel Solomon, CNN, New York.


LU STOUT: Now I spoke earlier with Chris Weston, he's the head of Research at Pepperstone in Sydney, Australia. And I asked him about the banking crisis, and one of the big banks in America had no choice, but to throw a lifeline to First Republic.


CHRIS WESTON, HEAD OF RESEARCH, PEPPERSTONE: Fact that they've all acted together as one to save a smaller bank, I think is quite old school in nature in itself. And we haven't seen that for a while. So I mean, it's quite reassuring to see that situation.

But also, you know, they want to know that the global important, the systemic banks are ring fenced, and by shoring up the capital in these banks, it does, you know, feed back into them. And ultimately, we don't know the terms of the loan that are going to come through. But ultimately, it's the big banks they're going to benefit from this.

We are seeing migration into Bank of America. We're seeing migration into JP Morgan into the big banks. So the stronger become stronger depositors are fleeing out these banks. So ultimately, they're benefiting from this, but it's nice to ring fence, you know that those systemic banks as well.

LU STOUT: Got it. Meanwhile, we heard from the U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, she told Congress, that the U.S. banking system remains sound. You know, policymakers are saying this current situation different from the financial crisis in 2008. You said that this lifeline that First Republic just got was able to sort of draw a line between the big banks and the more wobbly ones. But then you got that data that came out on Thursday showing that banks are seeking a record amount of emergency liquidity. So what's your read on that situation?

WESTON: Yes, you know, we've got this new facility as well, the term Funding Facility, and we saw -- only $11 billion being tapped from that. We're going to be interesting to see how banks fare next week, when we get the data for that one word, one suspect it's going to be a lot more.

But you know, the banks in terms of funding their assets, and it's the assets that are the concern. The big metric in the banking world, of course, is their capital tier one ratios, subtract your adjusted for the unrealized losses that we're getting from these bonds, which need funding. That's the big issue. So everyone's funding -- everyone's looking at the banks, specifically, the smaller ones that are looking at their assets and their tier one ratio is the capital adequacy and trying to adjust for the for the losses there.

And that's where the big problem is, ultimately, these banks have got an asset liability mismatch, which the regulators should have picked up before. And ultimately, these banks are now having to go to the Federal Reserve for that funding.


LU STOOUT: Thanks to Chris Weston, Head of Research at Pepperstone in Sydney, Australia. Still ahead right here on CNN Newsroom, more countries around the world are banning TikTok from official government devices. Coming up, I'll talk with the cybersecurity expert about the fears behind the bans.


[01:30:10] KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Kristie Lu stout in Hong Kong.

Now, Moldova has been accusing the Kremlin of trying to destabilize the country of the nation of little more than two and a half million people sits vulnerably on Ukraine southern flank. And now a document obtained by a group of international media organizations lays out Moscow's plan to do exactly that.

CNN's Nic Robertson has more.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: This is one face of Russia's hybrid war to destabilize Ukraine's tiny neighbor, Moldova. An organized pro-Russian protest whipped up by a parent pro- Russian political provocateurs, claiming intimidation, calling for the overthrow of Moldova's prime minister.

It's just one element in a sinister secret Russian intelligence document obtained by CNN systematically laying out ways to bring down the nation's Western-leaning leaders. In addition to organized protest, options include utilizing the Orthodox Church, threatening to cut off energy supplies.

It's 10-year strategy titled Strategic Objectives of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Moldova, appears to have been written two years ago by Russia's KGB replacement, the FSB. The aim, creation of stable pro-Russian groups of influence and the formation of negative attitudes towards NATO.

Moldovan officials increasingly seeing its volatile effects.

ANA REVENCO, MOLDOVAN INTERIOR MINISTER: And this black propaganda actually is getting to many people in form of manipulation that the Western and European integration path will only lead the country to a war.

ROBERTSON: Russia's aggression appears triggered by Moldova's shift to the West, reaction to Russia's war in Ukraine.

The Kremlin spokesman denies the FSB plan exists, dismisses it as a fake. But only last year, Russian military officials were boasting battlefield gains in Southern Ukraine would soon link Russia with Russian troops in the pro-Russian breakaway Transnistria Region of Moldova.

It didn't happen, but a few days later, tensions spiked as two radio towers in the separatist region were blown up. No details emerged. But the FSB plan raises troubling questions about the possibility of a false flag operation.

And Russian missiles on route to kill and maim in Ukraine routinely fly close to or even inside Moldova. Last month triggering a shutdown of Moldovan airspace also look less accidental, more intentional in light of the report. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We permanently asked for the unconditional evacuation of the Russian forces which are illegally stationed in Moldova's territory, including the evacuation of the ammunition depo in Cobasna.

ROBERTSON: Western allies are increasingly showing solidarity. The U.K.'s Foreign Secretary, the latest high profile visitor offering no weapons but strong support.

JAMES CLEVERLY, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: So one of the best ways that we can help physically protect Moldova from harm is to ensure that Ukrainians are able to defend themselves against Russian attack.

ROBERTSON: As long as Russia remains on the offensive in neighboring Ukraine, and perhaps longer, Moldova will likely be in Moscow's crosshairs.


Nic Robertson, CNN London.


LU STOUT: New Zealand and the U.K., among the latest countries to announce that TikTok will be banned on government devices due to security concerns. The popular social media platform is under growing scrutiny. Governments around the world are concerned about TikTok's links to China and the possibility that Beijing could pressure the Chinese company which owns the app to hand over the personal information of users.

Now here is what the British government told lawmakers.


OLIVER DOWDEN, BRITISH CABINET OFFICE MINISTER: We are also going to ban the use of TikTok on government's devices. We will do so with immediate effect.

Mr. Speaker, this is a precautionary move. We know that there is already limited use of TikTok across government, but it is also good cyber hygiene.


LU STOUT: The list of government's banning TikTok is getting longer by the day. The U.S., Canada, and the European Union have all imposed similar precautionary measures.

Beijing is slamming the U.S. after the Biden administration threatened to ban TikTok nationwide, unless the Chinese owners of the app sell their shares. Now China's foreign ministry criticized the apparent ultimatum from Washington. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WANG WENBIN, SPOKESPERSON, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY (through translator): We have always maintained the data security issues should not be used as a tool for some countries to overstretch the concept of national security, abuse, state power, and unjustifiably suppress other countries enterprises.

The U.S. has so far failed to produce evidence that TikTok threatens U.S. national security. The U.S. side should stop spreading false information on data security issues, stop unreasonably suppressing this company and provide an open, fair, just, and non-discriminatory business environment for foreign companies to invest and operate in the U.S.


LU STOUT: And joining me now is Eric Noonan, a cybersecurity expert and the CEO of CyberSheath. Thank you very much indeed for joining us.

I think a core question in all this is a question that I know has been top of mind for you. The U.K. has banned TikTok from government mobile devices. New Zealand will also ban the app from its parliament. This follows similar bans as we just laid out from the U.S. Federal Government, European Commission.

If all these entities are banning TikTok on government devices, why not put a ban on all devices?

ERIC NOONAN, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, CYBERSHEATH: It's an excellent question, Kristie, it really is, because we've kind of taken care of half of the equation. But as you rightly point out, the other half of the equation is if TikTok still on these government employees around the world's personally owned devices, the threat still exists.

The challenge fundamentally, I think, has to do with the legal frameworks, particularly in democratic countries, to be able to create the conditions where they can put an enforceable ban that will hold up legally on personally owned devices.

Now, I think that we're at the early stages of the regulatory frameworks to come into place to allow that kind of thing and make it a condition of employment, but that kind of infrastructure has to catch up. But certainly this is a first step, I think, with this global ban across government devices, which is now it's really soon to become, it appears, a global ban.

LU STOUT: So we're seeing these government bans first because they're enforceable. But ban or no ban, what are the security risks associated with TikTok?

NOONAN: I think fundamentally TikTok should be viewed as a global intelligence network. And these aren't -- and it's a -- it has the ability and it's on millions and millions and millions of devices across the world. And it has the ability of being a forward deployed intelligence network to collect information. And this isn't a theoretical threat, right? So I think sometimes when the threat, maybe several years ago, when all the energy started around the threat that is TikTok, it was less understood what could actually happen. But we actually have evidence now, right? And so we've seen the chief of TikTok's internal audit who reported back to -- his boss was in Beijing targeting journalists from Forbes, it's been widely reported. And the company has acknowledged they did that, and we're tracking locations of journalists.

So we've seen when this threat is weaponized, and that's just one public example. So if you think of that at scale, and your last story mentioned propaganda and manipulating public opinion, you think about that the opportunity to kind of track location of journalists or other officials of governments around the world and then manipulate mass opinion, it's a very, very potent tool in the -- in the tool belt of a global adversary.

LU STOUT: You say TikTok is much more than a social media platform. It's a potent tool in the U.S. ByteDance, the owner of the -- is fighting hard to avoid this forced sale, spending a lot of money on U.S. federal lobbyists.


So why is that? Why is ByteDance fighting hard all in on maintaining access to the U.S. market? Your thoughts on that.

NOONAN: Well, they have fought very hard and they spend a tremendous amount of money on lobbyists to do that here in the U.S. And so fundamentally, certainly, you might think there's -- this is a very lucrative market from a business perspective, but it's so much more than that.

So if you think of the ability of a -- of foreign government to have a foothold on every personally owned device in the United States, and then have the ability to collect intelligence in real-time, collect location in real-time, unfettered, it's an unparalleled, I think, intelligence tool and forward deployed intelligence network. I don't think we've really ever seen anything like that before. And so that's something that I believe China wants to protect.

LU STOUT: Cybersecurity expert, Eric Noonan, calling TikTok, a global intelligence network. We thank you for your insight. We thank you for your time. Thank you for joining us. Take care.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still ahead here on the program, this alarming new report, we want to share with you, is suggests a North Korean missile could reach the United States in just 30 minutes. That is Pyongyang confirms reports that it launched that ICBM on Thursday morning.

Plus, a jewel in the British crown with a murky past. The Kohinoor, one of the world's most famous and controversial diamonds, is set to go on display in London.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LU STOUT: Welcome back. Now, the leaders of South Korea and Japan have agreed to put decades of bad blood and distrust between their countries behind them. The South Korean president arrived in Tokyo Thursday for the first state visit of this kind in more than a decade.

He and the Japanese prime minister vowed to open a new chapter and increase communication. The plan is to put to rest a labor dispute dating back to Japan's colonial occupation of the Korean Peninsula.


FUMIO KISHIDA, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): In order to open new doors for Japan-South Korea relationship, President Yoon and I have decided in our summit to restart shuttle diplomacy, which both leaders frequently visit each other's country free from formality.



LU STOUT: The big motivation for the fence mending is deepening security concerns over North Korea's nuclear program and China's military aggression. North Korea confirmed what was initially reported by South Korean and Japanese officials its launch of an ICBM on Thursday morning.

These images released by state media appear to show Leader Kim Jong-un overseeing the operation, accompanied by a child believed to be his daughter. Now, the ICBM was fired into the waters of the East Coast of the Korean Peninsula, according to officials in South Korea and Japan. It is the fourth such ICBM launch from Pyongyang in less than a year.

Chinese scientists have simulated a North Korean missile attack on the United States. The study found that it would take about 33 minutes for an ICBM to reach the U.S. if the American missile defense systems failed.

CNN's Will Ripley reports.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In the skies near Japan, F-15 is on the hunt for a suspected North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile capturing what could be its last seconds in flight. This rare video released by Japan's military. Experts say the burning object resembles a ballistic missile boost rocket re-entering the atmosphere, flying for about an hour at hypersonic speeds.

TIANRAN XU, ANALYST, OPEN NUCLEAR NETWORK: If there's no interception or the intercepting fails, an ICBM launch from North Korea will take a little bit more than 30 minutes to reach the homeland U.S. and also depending on if it's the West Coast, or the East Coast. East Coast will take slightly more time. RIPLEY: Chinese scientists simulated a North Korean nuclear attack. According to the South China Morning Post, the simulation shows 33 minutes from the time of launch to the time of impact, if U.S. missile defenses fail to shoot down the ICBM.


RIPLEY: For years, U.S. leaders have reassured the public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The nation should be very confident.

RIPLEY: And America's allies.


RIPLEY: Missile defense systems can keep them safe. But virtually, all ballistic missiles travel at more than five times the speed of sound, sometimes faster.

LAURA GREGO, SENIOR SCIENTIST AND RESEARCH DIRECTOR, GLOBAL SECURITY PROGRAM: It's been described as hitting a bullet with a bullet trying to hit a warhead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one. Ignition.

RIPLEY: A report last year finding America's missile defense system, the nation's best, perhaps, only line of defense only succeeds about half the time.

FREDERICK LAMB, PHYSICS PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA- CHAMPAIGN: If North Korea were to fire up nuclear armed ICBMs at the United States, we cannot be assured that our missile defense system would prevent the deaths of millions.

RIPLEY: A U.S. Missile Defense Agency report last year said, the missile defense system has demonstrated a measured capability to defend the United States, deployed forces and allies from a rogue nation's missile attack.

But that rogue nation has a fast-growing arsenal. Kim Jong-un's military is mass producing ICBMs. He knows a barrage of ballistic missiles could be too much for the U.S. to shoot down.

With each ballistic missile launch, the United States' goal of denuclearizing North Korea seems to rocket farther and farther into outer space, frankly. North Korea wants to become a nuclear power like China, like Russia, with an arsenal so big that it would be impossible to shoot all of their -- all of their nuclear weapons down that essentially gives Kim Jong-un the legitimacy that he has been working so hard to get by launching so many of these missiles over the years.

Will Ripley, CNN, Taipei.


LU STOUT: Since 2014, a Tanzania-based charity known as WoteSawa has rescued hundreds of children from human trafficking, child labor, and domestic servitude, and the latest CNN Freedom Project documentary, it's called fighting for mercy. CNN travels with the Kulczyk Foundation to see how WoteSawa empowers domestic workers to demand to protect and to advocate for their rights.


ANGELA BENEDICTO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND FOUNDE, WOTESAWA DOMESTIC WORKERS ORGANIZATION: Our mission is to empower domestic workers to protect, to advocate, and to demand for their rights.

Since 2014, WoteSawa has rescued many hundreds of children from human trafficking, from child labor, from domestic servitude.

We believe that education is the key to success. Children who are staying here, they're attending classes to read, to count, and to write. So that when we send them back to their family, they can demand right to education.


We also provide vocational training to young girls at our shelter. We teach them to make carpet, to make bags and the process, but also, we teach them on tailoring so that they can be able to have different skills so that when they go back to their families, they can help, not only themselves, but they can help their families.


LU STOUT: Tune in this weekend, watch the full documentary, "Fighting for Mercy." How one group's battle against forced child labor in Tanzania. Well, there are several times this weekend, including the times on your screen.

Now, one of the world's most famous and controversial diamonds is said to be part of a new exhibition of the British Crown Jewels. The Kohinoor is a 105-carat diamond. It's thought to be from Central India with a highly conflicted colonial past.

After Queen Elizabeth died last year, India renewed calls for the stone's return. The exhibit opens in May at the Tower of London, the same month as the coronation of King Charles III and his wife Camilla. The Queen Consort has decided not to wear the jewel and her crown at the ceremony.

Severe weather watchers are in place across portions of the U.S. And just ahead, a look at the areas where millions brace for possible tornadoes and what to expect in the hours ahead.

And stinky seaweed is swamping shores. The bloom is so big, it can be seen from space, and we'll tell you where it's heading next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LU STOUT: The death toll from Cyclone Freddy has jumped to at least 326 in Southern Malawi. Rescue crews have been forced to use shovels and their bare hands to search for those trapped in the rubble. Officials say that a number of roads and bridges have been flooded or cut off entirely. More than 22,000 people have been displaced.

Millions of people in the Central U.S. face the threat of severe weather on Thursday night. At least one potential tornado was spotted near Fort Worth Texas. Tornado watches were issued for portions of Eastern Texas and Oklahoma, along with Southwestern Arkansas and Northwestern Louisiana. The region was also subjected to dangerous hail and strong winds.

CNN's Derek Van Dam has more on Thursday night storms and what to watch for on Friday.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: They say everything's bigger in Texas, and apparently that includes the size of the hail that falls from the sky. Just get a load of this comparison picture. This is coming out of the Greater Dallas Fort Worth region, just west of Fort Worth, in fact.

That's a clementine, and that is a three-inch hailstone. You certainly don't want to be under that when it falls from the thunderstorm cloud, right? These are the reports coming in from the National Weather Service. Just really impressive hailstones that fell from Fort Worth to Weatherford as well as Mineral Wells, two and a half to three inches. That's the size of the hailstones.


There was also 12 reports of wind damage, 49 reports of hail damage, in particular, but the National Weather Service highlights some of the larger hailstones that were reported. Those are two inches or larger in diameter. And there was actually nine reports of that. And you saw a picture of just that a moment ago.

Now, there's still the potential of severe weather as this line moves eastward overnight, so heads up Shreveport to Lake Charles. This is an area that will see the line of storms move through the overnight hours and into the early morning hours of Friday across the Gulf Coast region.

Here it is on our forecast radar. There's the showers and thunderstorms kind of picking up some of that moisture, maybe perhaps a little bit of circulation from the Gulf of Mexico. But they start to be around as you get into the middle of the day on Friday.

And really, we just focus our attention on precipitation, though, along the entire eastern seaboard. Here's our chance of severe weather for Friday. Damaging winds, can't rule out a tornado, although the risk is not as high as what we experienced on Thursday. Panama City, Mobil into New Orleans, that 30A corridor right along the Florida Panhandle as the potential for some strong to severe weather.

Look at the rainfall totals across that region, could see one to three inches locally. And we're anticipating some snowfall across the Great Lakes, in fact, lake enhanced snowfall possible across the Upper Peninsula into portions of Minnesota as well as Wisconsin, so look out for six to 12 inches of snowfall across that region. Back to you.

LU STOUT: All right. Now, bottled water has been one of the world's fastest growing industries over the last decade. But a new United Nations report says that could lead to environmental disaster, generating tons of pollution and even threatening groundwater supplies.

The report found that about 85 percent of plastic water bottles ends up in landfills or the ocean. In 2021 alone, the industry generated some 600 billion plastic containers, resulting in about 25 million tons of plastic waste. Other report also found that groundwater extraction could impact the availability of clean drinking water in some areas.

It could be the largest Sargassum seaweed bloom in history, spanning from the coast of Africa, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. And it really causes a mess when it comes ashore. The smelly seaweed is currently impacting beaches in Barbados. Officials there say it is hurting the country's tourism industry. And did we mention it smells like rotten eggs?

Not only that, it is so large, it can be seen from space. The enormous bloom is on a path toward Florida and it is expected to reach the state's beaches by July.

That is it for CNN NEWSROOM this hour. Thank you so much for watching. I'm Kristie Lu Stout. CNN Newsroom does in fact continue with my friend Kim Brunhuber, next. Keep it here.