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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden and Japan's Prime Minister Highlight Alliance As Counterweight to China; Thirty Five Tons of Baby Formula Arrives in Indianapolis from Germany; Spread of Monkeypox Raises Concern About Possible New Pandemic. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 23, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world, it is Monday, May 23, I'm Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Laura Jarrett. And we begin this morning with President Biden and Japan's new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida meeting in Tokyo overnight in a joint news conference. Kishida highlighted the importance of the alliance between the two countries in the midst of Russia's war in Ukraine.

ROMANS: President Biden noted the parallel after China's effort to extend its reach in east Asia. And he said the U.S. would honor its commitment to respond militarily if China intervenes in Taiwan.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We agree with one China policy. We've signed on to it, and all the attendant agreements made from there. But the idea that it can be taken by force, just take it by force is just not -- is just not appropriate. It will dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.


ROMANS: CNN's Kevin Liptak is live for us this morning in Tokyo. Hi, Kevin, you know, the president catching some off guard with that comment on Taiwan. What's the White House saying now? And I know China has responses as well.

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, some with the president's aides were caught off guard, and they should be because the U.S. has long adhered to this so-called policy of strategic ambiguity when it comes to Taiwan. They'll provide the island defensive weapons, the war in Beijing against invading, but they won't necessarily spell out what they would do if China were to invade.

And so the White House now says that the U.S. policy hasn't changed, they're essentially saying that the president didn't mean what he said. But when the president was speaking, he did actually say something had changed in the global environment. And that's the war in Ukraine. And he said that Putin's invasion of Ukraine had actually increased the burden on the United States to protect Taiwan. I know this isn't the first time that the president has come out with a statement on Taiwan that aides later had to scramble to go and clean up.

And it's also not the first time that he seemed to get out in front of official U.S. foreign policy. Remember he said that Putin was a war criminal before the United States had made that determination. And now China is out with a statement this morning, they are warning President Biden to be cautious in his words and deeds when it comes to Taiwan.

ROMANS: Yes, indeed, all right, Kevin Liptak, thank you so much for that, Laura?

JARRETT: Now, to a CNN exclusive. A one-on-one interview with the new president of South Korea about his country's strained relationship with North Korea, and why he believes China is being overly sensitive. South Korean leader Yoon Seok-youl spoke exclusively to CNN's Paula Hancocks, his first interview since his inauguration just two weeks ago. Paula joins us live now from Seoul. Paula, good morning. What else did he tell you?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Laura, the new South Korean president is certainly trying to stamp his mark on North Korean policy. He says that he believes the policy previously from his predecessor has been shown to fail. Now, he did did ask him about the fact that intelligence assessment in both South Korea and the U.S. say there could be an ICBM launch or a nuclear test imminent.

And he said that if that was the case in the case of an underground nuclear test, the response would be stronger and firmer. I also asked President Yoon about how you change Kim Jong-un's calculus. The fact that he is working on a five-year military plan, and he does not seem key to talk.


YOON SEOK-YOUL, PRESIDENT, SOUTH KOREA (through translator): I think the ball is in Chairman Kim's court. It is his choice to start a dialogue with us. I do not want North Korea to collapse. My hope is for North Korea to prosper alongside South Korea. I do not believe that enhancing its nuclear capability is helpful and conducive to maintaining international peace and shared prosperity.


HANCOCKS: Now, he also showed interest in joining the Indo-Pacific economic framework just announced by President Biden. He also said that he is interested in joining certain working groups within the Quad as well. Now, these are expected and seen as counters to China. So, I did ask him, considering China is South Korea's biggest trading partner, whether he had concerns that joining these groups could lead to any kind of economic retaliation.



SEOK-YOUL: Even if we strengthen our alliance with the United States in security and technology, it does not mean that we think our economic cooperation with China is unimportant. So I do not believe it is reasonable for China to be overly sensitive about this matter.


HANCOCKS: And President Yoon also said he believes that China, one of the world's leaders should be abiding by the rules, based international order. But of course, at a time when that is in such flux around the world. President Yoon Seok-youl over the weekend, meeting with President Biden and also within this interview made it very clear that his country, at least, for the next five years of his term will be standing firmly next to the United States, Laura?

JARRETT: All right, Paula, nice job getting that interview.

ROMANS: OK, so the first shipment of some much needed baby formula landed Sunday in Indianapolis, arriving on a military plane from Germany. The 35 tons of formula is enough to feed 9,000 babies and 18,000 toddlers for one week. Jasmine Wright has the latest from Washington. Jasmine, how will this be distribute and when is more on the way?

JARRETT: Well, Christine, it will be distributed to the areas around the country in most need. Now, that is according to Biden administration officials. Remember that this formula that is on the shipment that landed on Sunday, it is composed of hypoallergenic formula, really specialized for babies that are allergic or intolerant to cow's milk. So, this is going to be really specialized formula here for babies around the country.

Now, Secretary Vilsack of Agriculture Department, he met that shipment in Indiana on Sunday, and he really talked more about the choreography, more about where this is going to go around the country. Take a listen here.


TOM VILSACK, SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE: Now, this shipment is going to essentially get off this cargo plane. Then the federal express folks are going to take it from there. They're going to deliver it to a distribution center that the Nestles Gerber folks have here in Indiana. And then it's going to go on trucks and it's going to be delivered in hospitals and home healthcare clinics all across the country, providing support and help.


WRIGHT: So picking up there from Vilsack, we know that a second shipment according to officials from that operation Fly Formula is expected to happen in the coming days, officials said that on Sunday. Now, also on Sunday, Christine, we got a little bit more information about how the administration plans to utilize a Defense Production Act, really trying to get more products on the shelves. Remember, this happened when the administration seem to be kind of

caught off guard and didn't really seem to expect the fact that they would be seeing bare shelves, bare formula, and of course, very concerned parents.

So basically, these two priorities from the Defense Production Act, two priority authorizations that's going to go to companies Reckitt and Abbott. And remember, Abbott is at the center of this formula shortage when they had that recall earlier this year.

So it's going to go to them and it's going to prioritize things like sugar and filters and corn syrup, all things that are really helpful to make formula that really specialized type of formula. Again, as the U.S. continues to try to get more products on the shelves here for the parents.

ROMANS: Yes, we really learned what it looks like when you only have three or four companies that are -- you know, such a tight domestic industry, you know, something goes awry, and it really has ripple effects. Jasmine Wright, thank you so much for that. All right, President Biden speaking out now about monkeypox. What he says the virus -- why he says it isn't like COVID.

JARRETT: A Russian military officer revealing to CNN why he risked everything and resigned in the middle of the war with Ukraine. And this, five states preparing for primary elections. But it's Georgia that has everyone's attention.



JARRETT: This morning, there is a growing concern about the potential spread of monkeypox here in the U.S. As of Saturday, there were as many as five confirmed cases reported in the United States, but at least 92 worldwide. Now, President Biden says he believes the U.S. has the resources to handle any outbreak.


BIDEN: Thus far, there doesn't seem to be a need for any kind of extra effort beyond what's going on. And so, I just don't think it rises to the level of the kind of concern that existed with COVID-19 or/and the smallpox vaccine works for it. So -- but I think people should be careful.


JARRETT: Let's bring in Dr. Erica Shenoy; Associate Chief of the Infection Control Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. Doctor, so nice to have you this morning. So, you just heard the president there, but that's a little bit different than what he said initially. Initially, he told our Kaitlan Collins, everyone should be concerned. And then what you heard there is him trying to soften it, trying to say it's not like COVID, of course, it's not. So, how concerned should people really be? ERICA SHENOY, ASSOCIATE CHIEF, INFECTION CONTROL UNIT, MASSACHUSETTS

GENERAL HOSPITAL: So, I would agree that part of our frame of reference is the last two years of COVID. And there is no doubt that people are thinking that. But it seems very unlikely to unfold like COVID for a few reasons. Part of that is that we start off knowing a lot more about the virus. It's been around for a long time.

We know about the transition dynamics, and that it's actually not easily transmitted between people. And as President Biden said, we have medical counter-measures that we can use for prevention, namely two vaccines that are available.

JARRETT: Go ahead.

ROMANS: Are there any early symptoms here that we should be looking out for here for monkeypox. Any precautions like masking? Or this is close-contact is how you contract this, right?

SHENOY: Absolutely, and really more than chose contact. So close contact between the skin of one person and the lesions caused by the virus or the infected fluids of the other patient or the person who's infected. And also we think that respiratory secretions, but in very close face-to-face sort of contact.


So I think the way they'll think about this is, if you were to have symptoms like any time, you would, you know, talk to your doctor, but for the general kind of public, going about their daily lives, thinking about many other things. This is really not something that I would think would be high on anyone's radar, would just be something to be truly aware of and then wait to hear more as public health investigates and gets more information to the public.

JARRETT: By the time you see those lesions, I mean they're pretty apparent, by the time you see them, is it -- is it already sort of too late? Is it already, you know, extremely contagious or you know, is it the kind of thing like COVID, which is sort of a silent transmission where you actually might get it from somebody before you even see lesions?

SHENOY: So, from what we understand at this point, there is this period when you are incubating, and during that time that you don't have symptoms, there's no evidence at this point that you're infectious. Now, when the symptoms start, the initial symptoms of fever, aches, then the progression to the rash, you're certainly infectious at that time, and then all the way through the completion of that rash until the lesions fall off.

And at that point you're not considered infectious. But that can take two to four weeks. But our best knowledge at this point is that, in that first period when you're asymptomatic, that you are not infectious.

JARRETT: All right, well, that's good to know -- ROMANS: Yes, so interesting. A little bit of a mystery. I mean, I

know health officials in the U.K. are like contact-tracing and trying to figure out exactly --


ROMANS: How it is spreading. Dr. Erica Shenoy, thank you so much for getting up early with us this morning.

JARRETT: Appreciate it.

SHENOY: Thanks for having me. Thanks.

JARRETT: Coming up for you, a Russian military officer tells CNN why he risked his own life to quit Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine.

ROMANS: Plus, how black families are being squeezed out of the red hot housing market.



ROMANS: A Russian officer revealing to CNN why he risked it all and resigned his commission in the middle of the war with Ukraine. The officer says he actually hid his face from Ukrainians he encountered out of a growing sense of guilt and he quickly came to the conclusion that this wasn't his battle to fight. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live from Lviv, Ukraine, with the details. What a story, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's absolutely remarkable, Christine. I mean, this is a story of shame, guilt, confusion. This Russian officer, a junior officer telling CNN exclusively here that it began February 22nd. That massive buildup along the border with Ukraine. He was with his unit at that time. They were all ordered to turn over their cell phones. He lost communication with the rest of the world.

At that point, he says they were also ordered to paint Zs on their military vehicles. He said he had no idea why? Later that would become a symbol of the Ukraine's -- the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Now, the next day, they when to the Crimea, the Russian territory -- controlled territory inside the country. But it was February 24th, that was when he and his unit were ordered to go inside of the country of Ukraine.

And he says, we were not hammered with some kind of Ukrainian Nazi rhetoric. Many did not understand what this was all for and what we were doing here. He then describes his drive to Kherson where they came upon local residents who said they were quite fearful of them at times that they -- and the second or third day had come under some pretty heavy fire, some attacks.

And that really that first week, he was in a state of after-shock. He said he thought it was a miracle that they were even still alive. And after a couple of weeks into the war, that is when everything changed. He got access to a radio receiver and started to learn about what was really happening, saying "that's how I learned that shops are closing in Russia and the economy is collapsing.

I felt guilty about this, but I felt even more guilty because we came to Ukraine." He then concludes, in the end, I gathered my strength and went to the commander to write a letter of resignation. He told me, there could be a criminal case, that rejection is betrayal. But I stood my ground." And then he left, And Christine, what we understand is, he is now with his family safely and he does not know what his future holds. But he says he is just glad to be home. Christine?

ROMANS: All right, Suzanne Malveaux, thank you for that story. Laura?

JARRETT: This morning, a court in Kyiv will sentence a 21-year-old Russian soldier who pleaded guilty to war crimes after shooting an unarmed civilian in late February. The man apologized to the victim's wife in court last week. He faces life in prison. CNN's Melissa Bell is outside the courtroom in Kyiv there. Melissa, you've been following this story from the beginning. And I understand he is about to be sentenced any minute now. What can you tell us?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The verdict in sentencing are being read out even now just to go back to what Suzanne was just saying though a moment ago. That soldier that you were hearing from -- lucky to be back with his family, it is not the case for Vadim Shishimarin who is waiting to hear right now whether or not he's going to spend the rest of his life in jail. Just to remind you of some of the facts of the case, Laura.

And I think that's what's been so interesting about this trial. The first war crimes trial held in Ukraine even as the war continues is that, it's allowed us to get a glimpse into those very chaotic first few days, from the point of view of the foot soldiers of the Russian army. So we didn't just hear the testimony of Vadim Shishimarin cross- examined as he was by the widow of the man he's now admitted to having killed.


We also heard from one of the other soldiers who was traveling with him that day. Basically, these soldiers had come into Ukraine on the first few days of the war, 28th February, four days into the war, they crossed the border, they were in a tank column, their tank hit a mine, they escaped in a stolen car. They then came across this civilian who was on his phone just outside his house riding his bicycle, and the order was given to Vadim Shishimarin to kill him.

Vadim Shishimarin resisted that order, but as the other soldier who testified this week confirmed, the order was given in such a way then by his immediate superior that he could not refuse. He shot the civilian. And there has been some very poignant testimony that we've heard when he spoke to the widow of the man, and she said to him, how do you feel? He said I feel shame. And he explained that he come in his column, he didn't know what would follow, Laura.

JARRETT: All right. And as I had mentioned, that sentence should be coming in any minute now. Melissa, thank you for being there for us. Just ahead, voters head to the polls tomorrow in five states and all eyes will be on Georgia. We will break down the crucial races next.

ROMANS: Plus, sky-high home prices and soaring mortgage rates pricing out many first-time home buyers with the challenge even greater for black Americans.