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CNN International: Putin & Kim Hold Talks In Russia's Far East; North Korea Fires Missiles While Kim Is In Russia; Ukraine Launches Missile Strike On Sevastopol Shipyard; More Than 5,000 Dead, 10,000 Missing; North Korea Vows Support For Russia's Fight Against West; U.S. House Republicans Launch Impeachment Inquiry Into Biden; 500 Police Searching Wooded Area For Escaped Prisoner; Devastated Mountain Villages Desperately Wait For Help. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 13, 2023 - 08:00   ET




MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to CNN Newsroom. I'm Max Foster in London. Just ahead, North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un meets Russian President Vladimir Putin for, quote, very substantive talks. We'll have a report on the outcome of that meeting.

Then thousands of people are confirmed dead in eastern Libya after entire neighborhoods were wiped out by deadly flooding. It's now a race against time to find survivors there. Plus, the U.S. House Speaker calls for an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. And the details are coming up for you from Capitol Hill.

The Kremlin says talk between the Russian and North Korean leaders have been very substantive. Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un have wrapped up some five hours of talks and a state dinner. They met at a space center in Russia's Far East, where the Kremlin plans to launch its next generation of spacecraft. The west has raised concerns that the talks could be focused on potential arms deals. But here's what Putin and Kim had to say.


KIM JONG-UN, NORTH KOREAN LEADER (through translator): Of course, we need to talk about the issues of economic cooperation, humanitarian issues, and the situation in the region.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We need to talk about the issues of economic cooperation, humanitarian issues, and the situation in the region.


FOSTER: Mr. Putin then hosted the North Korean delegation at that state dinner. He toasted their friendship, saying one old friend is better than two new ones. A Russian media report that Kim will continue his tour of Russia with a stop in Vladivostok and a visit to defense and other factories in Russia's Far East. CNN's Matthew Chance has more now from Moscow.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the leaders of these two most heavily sanctioned countries in the world met face to face at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Russian Far East, where Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin toured a brand new Russian space rocket launch facility. President Putin indicating that Russia would look to help North Korea with its space technology.

Later, at a formal dinner, Kim voiced support for what he said was Russia's fight against imperialism, a reference to Russia's standoff with the west over Ukraine. But in terms of tangible results, frankly, there's not been much. No agreement signed, as far as we know. No joint news conference, the whole visit carefully choreographed and shrouded in secrecy.

But, of course, that doesn't rule out the possibility that a deal may have been done behind the scenes. Russia desperately needs weapons and ammunition to sustain its war in Ukraine, and North Korea is believed to have vast stockpiles. North Korea, in turn, has an ambitious missile and satellite launch program which may well benefit from Russian know-how.

Of course, that kind of transfer may have profound consequences both on the volatile Korean Peninsula and on the front lines in Ukraine.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.

FOSTER: For the first time ever, North Korea had a missile launch whilst its leader was out of the country, according to South Korea's military. The north fired two short range ballistic missiles earlier. You're looking at previous missile launches here. The missiles launched today reportedly travel about 650 kilometers before falling into the waters off the east coast of the Korean peninsula.

We're going to bring in Paula Hancocks, who's following all these developments from Seoul. What was the messaging here, do you think, Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Max, there were short range ballistic missiles, so that in itself is not significant. But the fact that they were fired while Kim Jong-un was out of the country is significant. Now, we believe that is the first time that that has happened.

Experts we've spoken to say that it could show that there's more of a delegation of command and control within North Korea at this point. It shows that Kim Jong-un doesn't have to be in the country for them to be able to carry out this kind of launch. So certainly that's the way that it's being taken.


Of course, previously, when he was leaving the country, that was back in 2018, 2019, the situation was very different. It was a far more friendly situation when it came to the west, the United States and its allies. Some of those meetings were in fact to go and see the former U.S. President Donald Trump. So a very different situation when North Korea was not testing then anyway.

But it does show what we've been seeing in recent years as well, that Kim Jong-un does not have to be at every single rocket launch. Certainly, years ago, he would have been front and center, but he's now really only present for the large ICBMs, the significant weapons testing. Max?

FOSTER: OK. Paula, thank you.

Ukraine has launched what appears to be its most ambitious attack yet on the port of Sevastopol, that's the largest city in Russian occupied Crimea. The regional governor says 24 people were injured in that strike. A Russian military blogger claims Russia shot down seven of 10 cruise missiles fired by Ukrainians at a shipyard overnight, but acknowledges that two Russian ships under repair at the facility were damaged.

CNN Investigative Producer Katie Polglase has been looking at that. What do you make of all of this?

KATIE POLGLASE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE PRODUCER: Well, Max, it's a pretty serious attack, as you can see from those images. This has devastated this port. This is a ship repair facility in particular, that they targeted a combination of missiles. And again, these sea drones that we've been talking about a lot launched on a series of Black Sea ships that were also in the area.

24 people injured, that's considerable. Again, a big impact on Russia's ability to continue this war. And Ukraine already admitting that they are very proud of this. The head of Ukraine's Air Force saying this was excellent combat work. So clearly, very proud of what's gone on here.

And again, what's crucial about this is the missile they used. So there is speculation as to exactly what kind of long range missile it is. It is clearly some kind of one that has reached some distance, potentially a British Storm Shadow missile that would reach about 155 miles.

The reason that's interesting is because we've been talking about the U.S. giving long range missiles potentially even longer. They would be using the army tactical missile systems reaching 186 miles. So even further than the British ones. You can see the effectiveness of using this kind of weaponry and what Ukraine is able to do in terms of reaching behind enemy lines and having an impact on the infrastructure Russia is using to conduct this war.

And again, we are talking about ammunition, supplies of weapons. The supply chain here is crucial to both sides. That's what we've been seeing this morning, talking about the Russian side. Kim meeting with Putin potentially to discuss an arms deal.

All of this is because this war is going on for quite some time, becoming a war of attrition who can last the longest in terms of how long their supply, their availability of missiles, ammunition is all available. And clearly, this attack shows that the Ukraine counteroffensive is very much still underway.

FOSTER: OK. Katie, thank you so much.

It's one of the deadliest floods in North Africa for a long time. The death toll from the disaster in eastern Libya has soared to more than 5,000. And other 10,000 people are missing, potentially either swept out to sea or buried beneath all of that rubble.

We have to warn you that some of the images coming in from the hard hit city of Derna are extremely graphic. Hospitals there are no longer functioning and the morgues are full. Dead bodies are piling up on the sidewalks outside.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is tracking the story from Rome and he joins us now. We're only really getting a full sense of it now, aren't we, Ben?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And even now, Max, it's really not a full sense. It's very preliminary given the amount of destruction in Derna, and also the fact that in terms of access to Derna, it's still very difficult. Now we understand that the communication system is slowly being restored, but it's still a very difficult situation.

And as you can see, for instance, the morgue is full to capacity. There are dead bodies lying in the street. Now, relatives are obviously desperately looking for their loved ones and so there's a reluctance to bury the dead. But the fact that in the streets of this city, that there are by all appearances, hundreds of dead bodies and it's still hot in the coastline of eastern Libya, and therefore there's a real danger of disease spreading as a result of that.

Now we understand from doctors in Derna that some bodies are being sent to nearby Tobruk where there are refrigeration trucks available. But at the moment, really, they're struggling to try to deal with the number of bodies that have just -- are being uncovered under the rubble or washing up from the sea.

Now aid is beginning to arrive, but it's also being slowed down by, a, difficult access and, b, the fact that politically eastern Libya is not on very good terms with many countries.


Now, for instance, Algeria has dispatched aid but to Tripoli in the west. That's 1,000 kilometers from the affected part of the country.

In addition to the dead and the damaged, there's also the displaced. According to the International Organization for Migration, in Derna alone, 30,000 people have been displaced. That's about a third of the city's population. In addition to that, in other affected areas in eastern Libya, more than 5,000 people have been rendered homeless.

Now help has arrived from Turkey, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Italy, Tunisia and other countries have -- are in the process of preparing to send assistance, but clearly, it's just not arriving fast enough. Max?

FOSTER: OK, Ben, thank you.

Increasingly cozy relationship between Russia and North Korea will be closely watched by officials in the United States and, in fact, the entire west. Today's meeting between the autocratic leaders was primarily organized for one reason, and that's their need for support from one another in the face of increasing isolation from the west. Russia needs more weapons to use in its war in Ukraine, whilst North Korea needs cash and food and some defense technology too.

Vladimir Putin raised a toast of friendship to his North Korean counterpart, while Kim Jong-un heat preys on the Russian leader.

JONG-UN (through translator): Russia is engaged in a fight for justice to defend the sovereign right and security interest against the hegemonic forces. We have been expressing the full and unconditional support to all measures that you have taken in response.

And that, in the front line of anti-imperialism and independence, I will always be standing with Russia. I'm using this opportunity to make it clear.


FOSTER: Joining me is CNN Political and National Security Analyst David Sanger in Washington. Thanks so much for joining us. I mean, a lot of the Western media talking about this being two priors meeting, but it's very symbolic, isn't it? This alternative axis that's appearing, you know, to try to sort of combat Western power over the world, but also just the idea that these two countries are at war with Western allies.

DAVID SANGER, CNN GLOBAL & NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Max, the war like nature of the conversation really told you that we are somewhere between a cold war and a hot war with Russia right now. Somewhere between because, of course, the United States and the NATO allies are not directly involved by having troops on the ground, but involved in every other way.

And now what you're seeing is that Putin has concluded that winning this war has to become the central focus of Russian foreign policy. And that is really what this meeting is about. He didn't expect to be here at 18 months or a little more into this conflict. He thought by this time the entire thing would be in the rear view mirror.

Instead, he's had to reach out to the North Koreans who are just delighted to suddenly be relevant on the stage, to have something someone needs. And in this case, Kim Jong-un's got a lot that Putin needs from tanks to artillery, shells to mines.

FOSTER: A lot of people, you know, who don't support the west will look at this as well, won't they, thinking, you know, it's quite plucky, you know. They might not agree with exactly the conversation that's being had here, but the fact that, you know, two leaders like this, and, you know, obviously China as well, standing up to the west, they might see that as, you know, a very positive meeting in terms of the optics.

SANGER: That's right. It's actually gone beyond just this meeting. The meeting that China held of the BRIC nations bringing in Iran and other countries was an effort to show that China could organize an alternative bloc to the west. And, of course, Russia's a part of that.

You've seen China, Russia, North Korea and Iran all gather in various forms of support for the war. The Chinese are not providing arms, but they are providing technology. The Iranians are producing drones that have been quite effective for the Russians. And now, of course, the North Koreans are coming to play this role as sort of backup provider of arms.

Now, if you're the Russians, you might argue, and you've already heard a bit of this, well, the United States has gone around the world to drum up arms for Ukraine, including from South Korea, which has provided, though, and it hasn't talked about it very much publicly, 650,000 rounds of large artillery shells.


So there is a sense among the Russians that if South Korea is fair game for NATO, then North Korea certainly should be fair game for it.

FOSTER: We also heard, didn't we, the day before, President Putin basically getting involved in the U.S. presidential race by talking about this persecution of Donald Trump by the U.S. authorities. How do you think all of this will play into the U.S. election, because presumably, Trump could now tout himself as someone who could resolve all of this when Biden wouldn't be able to?

SANGER: Well, Trump has already said he could resolve the war in 24 hours. Now, many interpreted that here as saying, yes, he would say it's fine for the Russians to seize and hold part of Ukraine. Trump himself has said no, he would just persuade both sides to stop fighting, you know. Doesn't sound to me like something that sounds like a very plausible plan, but people say a lot of things on the campaign trail.

To your broader point, though, Max, what have we seen in the past few days? We have seen Putin, as you point out, make the case that President Trump is being persecuted, that the legal actions are really politically motivated. We have seen China enter the fray a little bit with a fair bit of disinformation aimed at the United States.

We revealed in the Times the other day that it was Chinese influencers who were behind a false conspiracy theory that the United States had touched of the fires in Maui, in those -- in the fires that occurred just last month with a weather weapon. Now, you know, that's non- political to begin with, but seems to have a lot of echoes of what Russia was doing in 2015 to develop a following that they then used for political purposes in 2016.

FOSTER: It's fascinating. David Sanger, thank you so much for joining us with your insight today.

SANGER: Great to be with you.

FOSTER: Still to come, Republicans launched their most serious attack yet on Joe Biden. So why are some Democrats literally laughing out loud about it? That story is coming up.


FOSTER: Now Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have launched an impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden, even though they presented no direct evidence of any wrongdoing by the President. Far- right Republicans have been urging House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to get impeachment moving for weeks.

On Tuesday, McCarthy authorized an investigation into whether Mr. Biden profited off business deals made by his son. McCarthy says there are serious, incredible allegations about the President's conduct. Democrats say the whole thing is just political theater.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can we ask you about this news that Speaker McCarthy has formally launched an impeachment -- or has said he's going to --

JOHN FETTERMAN, U.S. SENATE DEMOCRAT: Oh my God, really? Oh, my gosh, you know. Oh, it's devastating. Don't do it. Please, don't do it. Oh no, oh no.


FOSTER: Let's bring in CNN Congressional Correspondent Lauren Fox for some additional perspective on what's happening here. I mean, the Democrats don't think this will get through, do they? I mean, that's what he was speaking to, I guess, there. But why didn't this end up on the floor, because I thought it wasn't going to happen without that?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, I think that this move by Kevin McCarthy yesterday to come out of his office and make this announcement unilaterally was a surprise to a lot of us, including some House Republican members in McCarthy's own ranks.

That's because McCarthy just 12 days ago made the case that if he was going to bring impeachment forward, he was going to do so with a vote of the full House of Representatives. The reality is the votes were not there to pass this on the floor.

And McCarthy was facing increasing pressure from those in the House Freedom Caucus, including Representative Matt Gaetz, who went to the floor just about an hour after McCarthy made this announcement and said there were a series of other demands that he and other conservatives want to see Kevin McCarthy get in line with. And if McCarthy doesn't do so, his argument was he could bring forward a vote to try to remove McCarthy from his job as speaker. Now, given the House rules that exist after the Speaker's race in January, one of the key concessions was that any one single member can bring a vote of the full House of Representatives to try to oust the speaker. And Gaetz and other conservatives are threatening that they could do that if House Speaker Kevin McCarthy moves forward with potentially even a short-term funding bill that will be needed to fund the government after that September 30 deadline.

So really a series of issues that McCarthy is facing and staring down right now while he continues to face pressure from his right flank.

FOSTER: OK, Congressional Correspondent Lauren Fox, thank you so much for that.

Police in Pennsylvania say they think they know where escape prisoner Danelo Cavalcante is, but even with 500 officers searching for him, they've still not yet recaptured the convicted murderer. Police are currently combing through a wooded area about 30 kilometers from the prison that Cavalcante escaped from two weeks ago.

They say Cavalcante is desperate and extremely dangerous. He's also armed with a rifle that he stole from a garage on Monday night.

Coming up, the full human cost of Morocco's deadly earthquake is still being counted. We'll bring you more from the remote mountain villages that are picking through the rubble.


FOSTER: The death toll from Morocco's deadly earthquake last Friday has climbed past 2,900 people. Bodies are still being pulled out of the rubble as hopes of finding anyone remaining alive, frankly, are fading.

As CNN's Sam Kiley reports, survivors in some hard hit remote villages are still desperately waiting for government help.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Moroccan airmen scan the landscape below for earthquake survivors. The remains of villagers have been crushed back into the hillsides are inaccessible by land, some so remote that aid is dropped from the sky. Below the search for survivors is turning to recovery of the dead.

LIEUTENANT MONSIF ASIF, ROYAL MOROCCAN ARMED FORCES: So since the day that we arrived here, we found more than 200 dead bodies and we saved 153.


KILEY (voice-over): The helicopter collects more of the quakes victims, leaving homes that no longer exist. There are many areas yet to see government help in these foothills.

(on camera): The further you get into the foothills of the Atlas Mountains whether by air or on foot, the more one fine scenes like this. Locals tell us that two people were killed when these three homes were flattened.

(voice-over): The death toll has climbed to more than 2,900 now as the poorest, the most isolated, are getting counted.

(on camera): And as one gets into these remote villages, and you look back down the hillside, you get the really strong impression of the giant steps of this quake stamping on villages as it runs down the slopes.

(voice-over): Climbing further, we come across a desperate search for buried savings. All that remains when Akhmet's (ph) home collapsed. The catastrophe killed his 10-year-old niece, Hakima (ph). He tells me, I lost my niece. My brother lives in the house just above us. When the earthquake struck, the roof of the house flattened all the way to the ground. I went and pulled her out under the rubble.

(on camera): What is the future for you?

(voice-over): He says, I want to rebuild my house, but everything has been lost. I want to stay in my village. I don't want to leave it. I'm committed to staying on my land. But with his livestock dead and Akhmet's (ph) life so shattered, the question he can't answer is how.

Sam Kiley, CNN, in Tafraout.


FOSTER: Thanks for joining us here on CNN Newsroom. I'm Max Foster in London. World Sport with Amanda is up next.