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CNN International: Kim Jong-Un Arrives In Russia Ahead Of Putin Meeting; At Least 2,000 Dead, 10,000 Reported Missing In Libya Floods; Desperate Search For Survivors After Morocco Earthquake; Remote Villages Hit Hard By Morocco's Devastating Quake; Supreme Court Hearing On Netanyahu's Judicial Reform; U.S. Caver Safe After Failing Ill 1,000 Meters Plus Underground; U.S. Warns Russia And North Korea Could Strike Arms Deal; Japan's Highest Peak Is Facing Overtourism; Hawaii's Kilauea Erupts For The Third Time This Year. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 12, 2023 - 08:00   ET




MAX FOSTER, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to CNN Newsroom. I'm Max Foster in London.

Just ahead, Kim Jong-un arrives in Russia on board a heavily armored train ahead of an expected meeting with Vladimir Putin. Then, unprecedented flooding in Libya. It's feared 10,000 people are missing as entire villages were swept away after two dams collapsed.

And devastation so bad that Morocco's military have only recently reached the epicenter of the deadly quake that happened on Friday. More on the rescues ongoing there.

Kim Jong-un's heavily armored private train is in Russia. It's shrouded in mystery. These images from Russian state media show the train in Russia's far-east region. The North Korean leader made the rare trip outside his country for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, which, according to the Kremlin, will focus on sensitive areas.

However, there's no word exactly where and when those talks will take place. According to Russia's state military TV channel, Russia's defense minister will participate in those meetings. U.S. officials say the talks are expected to focus on the North providing weapons for Russia's use in Ukraine.

CNN's Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour joins us now from New York. And those that information we're getting from Western officials does sound right when we also know that the Defense Minister is going to be there.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, yes, Max, and we've seen the train, we've seen pictures, we've seen Kim Jong-un aborted. Apparently, it's like the first time in four years that he's left the country. And we also have reports that his senior defense official, the general is on board there as well.

The question is, though, what does this all mean? Does it amount to more than a hill of beans? I spoke to a very senior U.S. official, of course, the ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, when news of this first started to break, and he said, like, the administration here in the United States is saying that, you know what, if Russia, if Vladimir Putin is depending on North Korea for weapons and ammunition to support its war in Ukraine, then that is a very sad state of affairs.

Adding that if Russia, if Putin is depending on North Korea to prop up Putin's ideas of, quote, "an imperialist resurrection of the Russian empire", then that is a very, you know, weak state of affairs for Russia to be in. Calling North Korea a pariah, calling, you know, the fact that North Korea does not have the most modern weapons that it could deliver anyway.

You know, just a sort of a more of a show rather than something that would be really, really effective on the battlefield in Ukraine, for instance. Not to mention, of course, that if that does happen, both sides would be violating sanctions.

South Korea has called on North Korea -- well, mostly on Russia to respect its role as an international player, as a member of the, you know, the Security Council and to abide by international sanctions. Because not only is Russia under some sanctions, but certainly North Korea is under a whole load of sanctions for a long period of time. Max?

FOSTER: OK, Christiane Amanpour, thank you so much for your insight.

Now, a Libyan health official describes the situation on the ground of Derna as a catastrophic. At least 2,000 people are dead. It's estimated some 10,000 may be missing after Storm Daniel dumped torrential rains across northeast Libya. Two dams collapsed, sending water gushing into the already flooded areas. A spokesman for the eastern based Libyan National Army says the raging water carried away entire neighborhoods.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is monitoring the situation. He joins us from Rome right now. And the pictures we're getting in are getting more extraordinary all the time, Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and that statement that entire neighborhoods were washed into the sea that we heard from that military spokesman does seem to be accurate. You look at these pictures, it appears as if a tsunami just rushed through the city of Derna, a city of about 100,000 people.

I've been there. It's at the edge of the mountains of eastern Libya. And apparently, there were two dams upstream on the dry riverbed, the Wadi, that simply filled up as a result of this incredible amount of rainfall that fell as a result of this Storm Daniel.


Now, we did hear from one, Tamer Ramadan, who's the head of the Society of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies saying that according to their independent sources, the number of missing at this point could be as many as 10,000 people.

Now Othman Abdul Jalil, who's the Health Minister for the Eastern Libyan government says that so far, they've been able to identify 700 bodies, but there are many more obviously, that have yet to be identified as far as aid coming to this disaster area. We did see that the government in western Libya, based in Tripoli, has dispatched 87 paramedics on an airplane, also with a supply of body bags.

Now, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced today that the Turks were sending three airplanes with 167 rescue and -- search and rescue personnel as well as humanitarian aid. And the U.S. ambassador to Libya, who's based in Tunis, has put out what's called an international -- declaration of humanitarian need, which is the first step for the U.S. to start providing humanitarian aid in this disaster. A disaster that looks like it may eclipse the earthquake in Morocco. Max?

FOSTER: OK, Ben, thank you.

Now rescuers are working urgently to find survivors amidst the rubble in Morocco, four days after the country was hit by a devastating earthquake. The death toll has climbed past 2,800 with more than 2,500 injured. Aid has been really slow to reach some of the hardest hit remote villages, where roads have been destroyed or blocked by debris.

CNN's Nada Bashir visited one hard hit area, where residents are losing hope of finding any more survivors.

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, Max, this is one of the villages impacted by the earthquake. The village of Moulay Brahim and you can see behind me just how high we are in the Atlas Mountains. This is a remote village, but it has proven easier to get to for rescue workers on the ground in other parts of the Atlas Mountains, including the village we visited yesterday, Imi N'Tala.

It has proven nearly impossible for rescue workers to reach those impacted. In fact, when we spoke to residents there, they told us that yesterday was the first day international rescue teams had made it on the ground. Take a look.


BASHIR (voice-over): Stone by stone, hour by hour. The desperate search for survivors pushes on. The silence in this remote mountainous village punctured only by the whales of those who survived now left to mourn.


BASHIR: Well, for the rescue team here, this really is a race against time. There is a woman and her 12-year-old daughter buried beneath the rubble and for their family waiting anxiously for news of whether they have survived Friday's earthquake, they are quickly losing hope.


BASHIR (voice-over): Berzika (ph) has already buried 19 members of her family. Now, she fears she will soon have to bury her niece, Shema (ph).

On Saturday morning, we could still hear her voice, she tells me. She was alive. Now we can't hear her. They took too long to get here. Until now, we've been digging through the rubble with our bare hands. If help had arrived sooner, we could have rescued them in time.

They're small in size. The village of Imi N'Tala was among the hardest hit by the earthquake. The deadliest Morocco has suffered in decades. But three days on, rescue teams have only just arrived. The high mountainous range is simply too remote. The roads, up until now, still obstructed by debris from the quake.

And with time running out, rescuers say this has now become a recovery operation.

SAAD ATTIA, INTERNATIONAL SEARCH AND RESCUE VOLUNTEER: I think they are all working, working very hard, but until now, they don't need a dog who will search for life. So they confirmed that all the victim, which in this rubble has already passed away.

BASHIR (voice-over): Few lives in this close knit community have been untouched by death. Each body recovered, a gut wrenching reminder of the climbing death toll, already in the thousands. It's unclear just how many in this village are still missing. But for those buried beneath the rubble, just like little Shema (ph), rescuers fear it is already too late.


BASHIR: And Max, while international rescue teams are now on the ground in many of these impacted villages, we've been speaking to aid workers on the ground and they tell us there are still villages across the foothills of the Atlas Mountains that they haven't been able to reach.


FOSTER: OK. Now in an historic day in Israel for the first time, all 15 judges on the Supreme Court are hearing a case together. The court's being asked to decide whether it, the Supreme Court, has the power to overturn government acts that are unreasonable. It's a central part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to overhaul the country's judicial system.

Israelis have been protesting for months over the issue. Critics say Netanyahu is trying to steal power away from the courts. And that all this weekend -- and it all weakens really Israel's democracy.

Our Jerusalem Correspondent Hadas Gold is tracking this story for us. Lots of small incremental developments in this story. What's today about, Hadas? HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Well, today is really historic day, Max. We are outside of the Israeli Supreme Court. We're inside as we speak. This hearing is underway, and it's historic in several ways. One of which is, this is the first time that all 15 judges of the Supreme Court are sitting together to hear this case. And they are hearing what would be an amendment to a basic law.

Now, Israel doesn't have a constitution. The basic laws make up a quasi Constitution. The Supreme Court has never before nullified a basic law. And this is something that they are potentially debating now. And this law that was passed in July, it's about their own powers. It's the Israeli parliament taking away the Supreme Court's ability to nullify government actions that they deem to be unreasonable. This is something that the Supreme Court has done just in the past year.

Interestingly, though, actually, is that the government is not being represented by their own attorney general. Now, the attorney general is not a political appointee, but she issued her own opinion on this case last week, saying that she believes that this law should be struck down. This law cannot stand. And so as a result, the government is being represented by private counsel.

Now, what the private counsel has argued so far today is saying that the Supreme Court does not and should not have the power to strike down amendments to the basic law (ph). Strike down, essentially, amendments to this quasi Constitution and saying that that power should be held by the people. The people who democratically, they say, elected this government into action.

Now the government are -- now the plaintiffs' argument, the plaintiffs who brought this case to try to nullify this law, they say that this harms the authority of the judicial branch. It harms the status of Israel as a democratic state, and they also are claiming some impropriety and how this was even passed. How it was pushed through Parliament.

Now, obviously, it's always kind of hard to tell how judges will actually rule on something and how they feel about something, but we're getting some hints from the Supreme Court justices so far. They are questioning sort of like, OK.

They've asked the government lawyers, if the power should all be with the people and they should be the only ones who can decide this, well, what happens if the government decides to only have elections every 10 years, every 20 years, who will be the check on that power? Who will be there to stop that?

And here's one quote that I think has really stood out. This is from one of the justices. They said democracy dies in a series of small steps. Now, this hearing is supposed to only last through today, maybe tomorrow, but the deadline for a decision, that will come in January.

And there's a big question here, whether the government will even abide by a Supreme Court ruling that strikes down this law. This is setting Israel up, potentially, for a huge judicial and constitutional crisis. Max?

FOSTER: Hadas Gold, back with you as we get updates. Thank you so much for that.

Now, American caver Mark Dickey, who has been trapped in one of Turkey's deepest caves for more than a week, has been rescued in a complex operation involving an international team of some 200 experts.

Dickey is an experienced caver and had been part of the exploration mission in the Morca Cave when he started to suffer from gastrointestinal bleeding. Speaking for the first time after being brought safely to the surface, he thanked rescue workers for saving his life.


MARK DICKEY, AMERICAN CAVER: It is amazing to be above ground again. I was underground for far longer than ever expected with an unexpected medical issue. At one point in time while I was waiting for Jessica to get back down with fluids, she made an insane climb of a thousand meters out of a cave to come back down another thousand meters along with the support of Hungarians and Turkish cavers.

Saved my life and it was the rapid response of the Turkish government that got the resources to her. Just, what can you say? Saved my life.


FOSTER: Still to come, as the world awaits a meeting between the leaders of Russia and North Korea, we'll look at what each country might offer the other. And explore why Washington is keeping a very close eye.



FOSTER: Kim Jong-un's heavily armored train has crossed into Russia ahead of an expected summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. So what could Russia and North Korea offer each other? This is reportedly the first foreign trip for the North Korean leader since 2019. And since the coronavirus pandemic, when the country's borders were closed, Kim and Putin were leaders of two of the most isolated countries on the world stage, both under heavy international sanctions.

Russia's in constant need of weapons to keep up its war on Ukraine and North Korea may be in search of technology to keep advancing its nuclear weapons program. It's also suffering from food and cash shortages.

To discuss what each side could offer the other, let's bring in CNN's Paula Hancocks live from Seoul. I mean, these are the things we assume are the topic of discussion because they're the two things that they're useful to each other for. But what do we actually know about the debate they'll be having? PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Max, what we've been hearing is a lot from U.S. intelligence and then also backed up by South Korean intelligence reports. So what they believe that -- first of all, let's look at North Korea. What North Korea could get out of this deal is satellite technology.

Now we know that North Korea has already tried over the past few months twice to put a military satellite into space and has failed twice. So certainly that is something that they would want to get their hands on. And also the nuclear submarine technology as well.

Now we have seen North Korea just recently launching what it said was a nuclear submarine. So certainly that would be again something that they are looking to gain more technology from.

Now, again, we're hearing from U.S. officials that Russia simply wants more ammunition. It wants more small arms. And we know that North Korea has the capability to produce on a mass when it comes to these kind of ammunition, and we also know that they have a fair stockpile that they're sitting on.

And the key here when you look at what Russia can get from North Korea is that the two militaries and the two sets of weaponry are fairly similar. So if North Korea were to give Russia certain types of ammunition, they wouldn't need to be modified at all. They would be able to be used in Russian weapons immediately. So that is a very large benefit for Russia.

So certainly this mutual dependence and mutual alliance could really be very mutually beneficial for both countries, militarily, of course, but also politically. As you mentioned, they are both isolated, they're both heavily sanctioned and they are both united by a common enemy at the moment, which is the United States. Max?

FOSTER: Yes, and there's not much, really, the United States can really do to punish them, presumably, because of the sanctions that you mentioned. They're already pretty strict.

HANCOCKS: Well, that's right. And bear in mind, the U.N. Security Council resolutions against North Korea were agreed to by Russia as a member of the Security Council, but they will not be put in place and they will not be put forward by Russia. They have veto power in the Security Council, so it effectively gives North Korea free reign to launch and test what they would like, knowing they're not going to be sanctioned further within the Security Council.


Russia is not going to do it. China, another veto power is not likely to want to side with the United States at the moment either. So it is difficult to see exactly how beyond words, beyond threats, beyond unilateral sanctions against certain people or institutions, how the U.S. can try and deter Russia and North Korea to do what they are doing at this point.

And certainly that is what we have heard from some U.S. officials that in the past when they have publicized that a certain country or a certain entity was wanting to give ammunition or to give military aid to Russia for the front lines in Ukraine, that just publicizing that could be a deterrence in itself.

Now, they have publicized it this time around, but it hasn't been any kind of deterrence as we've seen because Kim Jong-un is currently in Russia. He is heading north. We don't know exactly the location he will meet with Vladimir Putin, but this meeting is going to go ahead. We're hearing from the Kremlin, it will go ahead within the next few days.

Also, the Kremlin saying it will be a full blown visit with talks between the two delegations, and we will touch upon, quote, "sensitive issues". Max?

FOSTER: OK. Paula Hancocks in Seoul, thank you. Wait and see how that meeting goes when it happens.

Still to come, Japan's iconic mountain is screaming for relief. How too many tourists are damaging the once tranquil Mount Fuji, when we return.


FOSTER: Once tranquil, Mt. Fuji is in danger of losing its charm. A recent tourism boom is leaving one of Japan's most treasured sites full of congestion and traffic jams. Kristie Lu Stout explains how hordes of hikers are putting a strain on the sacred mountain.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Human traffic jams on sacred Mt. Fuji.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very cold. Just like a traffic jam.

STOUT (voice-over): An ambulance en route to an injured hiker, litter on the mountainside. It's a side to Japan's popular tour site that is not in the guidebooks. But for Mount Fuji ranger Miho Sakurai, it's just another day on the job.

MIHO SAKURAI, MOUNT FUJI RANGER (through translator): There are definitely too many people on Mount Fuji at the moment. The numbers are much higher than before.

STOUT (voice-over): Famous for its snow-capped volcano, Mount Fuji has inspired artists and been a pilgrimage site for centuries. Less than two hours away from Tokyo, Japan's highest peak attracts visitors globally. And in 2013 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Overtourism has become a big problem.

This year, a post-COVID tourism boom has brought thousands more hikers to Mount Fuji, according to a Yamanashi prefectural government official. The environmental damage being done could cost Mount Fuji its heritage status, according to the local government. MASATAKE IZUMI, YAMANASHI PREFECTURAL GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL (through translator): Fuji-san is screaming out in pain. We can't just wait for improvement. We need to tackle overtourism now.

STOUT (voice-over): Volunteer take away tons of trash each year. Climbers are urged to donate $7 to help keep the mountain clean, but not everyone pays up. And Sakurai says some behavior is even harder to control.

SAKURAI (through translator): People of all experience levels come here, including first timers. We want to prevent accidents, so we give them advice.


STOUT (voice-over): The risk of altitude sickness and hypothermia has been increased by a trend called bullet climbing, where hikers begin their ascent at night, pushing on until dawn, according to the Yamanashi tourism board.

According to the local government, they start their hike from a place called Fuji's fifth station, where the number of climbers arriving here from Tokyo has more than doubled between 2012 and 2019. The local government also says it wants to shift from quantity to quality tourism. It says replacing the main road to Fuji with a light rail system would be a more sustainable solution.

SAKURAI (through translator): I'd be devastated if Mount Fuji's World Heritage status was taken away. I wanted to have that status forever. So we'll do our best to keep it that way.

STOUT (voice-over): But with no easy fix in sight, Sakurai will keep doing her bit to protect the mountain she loves.

Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


FOSTER: Hawaii's Kilauea volcano, one of the most active in the world, has erupted for the third time this year, spewing lava into the surrounding area of Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park. Some visitors were able to see the display up close. Look at that. Officials say the eruption doesn't currently pose a direct threat to nearby communities.

And before we go, while thousands gathered in New York City on Monday to mark the 22nd anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, a double rainbow appeared over New York after a storm passed through the city. Many took to social media to express their awe on the day when America and the world remembered the nearly 3,000 people killed in the attacks.

Thanks for joining me here on CNN Newsroom, I'm Max Foster in London. World Sport with Amanda Davies is up next.