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North Korea Touts Gift to Americans; U.S. And South Korea Conduct Military Drills; Trump Tweets about China; Congressmen Skip Parades; Trump's Overseas Trip. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 05, 2017 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Are still in for a congressman who skips the Fourth of July parade. Just one of the many holiday wrinkles for the contentious Obamacare repeal debate.

But we begin with the most pressing of many global challenges confronting President Trump all at once. The Pentagon says that missile tested yesterday by North Korea is new and a game changer because of its likely ability to reach the United States. America's top general in South Korea warns the prospect of war is real. That as the United States and its allies stage their own missile display in response to Pyongyang. The South Korean government added this to the message war, a computer animate video portraying a devastating attack on the North Korean capital.

President Trump is calling for global isolation and voicing his exasperation that China won't do more to help. And the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, hardly shy about testing Mr. Trump's patience. Listen to this. He calls that ICBM test proof of his nuclear powers and a Fourth of July gift launched to, quote, "slap the American bastards in their face." North Korea will top the president's crowded agenda when he lands in Europe and as the urgent focus right now at the Pentagon as well.

Barbara Starr has the latest there on the assessment of this new missile and the options to deal with it.

Hi, Barbara.


The day after July 4th, a very different world for President Trump because now it is just a fact, North Korea has an intercontinental ballistic missile that could, some day, with some additional improvements, be able to strike the United States, in particular the western portion of Alaska. They would have to make improvements to be able to do it, but there is no question that is the direction they are heading.

U.S. officials, defense officials telling us the missile they fired yesterday, two stages, intercontinental ballistic missile capability. And it was something brand new that the U.S. had never seen before. U.S. intelligence now scouring every bit of information it has, radar data, satellite data, the pictures the North Koreans have shown to try and calculate what this missile is all about.

If you want to consider how destabilizing even this test might have been, a short time ago the Pentagon spokesman explained to reporters the view of the Defense Department was this missile posed a potential threat when it was launched to aircraft, civilian aircraft flying in the region, satellites overhead because it achieved such a high altitude. Shipping in the Sea of Japan. We asked why, then, if it was such a threat, it wasn't shot down. The spokesman saying it did not pose a direct threat to the United States at this time.

But, as North Korea continues this test program and they continue to fire into these busy areas in the Asia Pacific region, there is growing concern that there could be a very unexpected disaster at some point. No indication the U.S. is looking to conduct military action, but they indeed are having that show of force yesterday that U.S. missiles also could reach into North Korea.


KING: At a minimum tense times to say the least. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Barbara, thank you.

The shift in South Korea is quite dramatic. It's new president just elected on a platform of dialogue with the North. But this latest missile launch is bringing a more muscular tone.

David McKenzie is live for us in Seoul with that.

Hello, David.


Certainly this is a real test for President Moon here in South Korea. He has been voted in because of promising, maybe a more dialogue ready posture toward North Korea, but this really thrashing that to shreds. You see the daily papers here in South Korea. A business daily here, John, which is saying that North Korea's ICBM provocation really threatens the red line of both South Korea and the U.S. Here in English language paper, again, big front page headlines showing Kim Jong-un overseeing that missile test.

The calculation here in South Korea has always been slightly different from the U.S. They've got artillery pieces right on the DMZ, right near Seoul and any conflict could be a massive disaster for this country. So they tend to push, at least with this new administration, towards dialogue. But with Kim Jong-un continuing to provoke, continuing to progress that missile system, very little dialogue will come from the South Koreans any time soon.


KING: David McKenzie for us in Seoul, tracking things there. David, thank you so much. With us here in Washington to share their reporting and their insights, Jackie Kucinich of "The Daily Beast," John Yang of the PBS "NewsHour," Jill Colvin of the Associated Press, and Matt Viser of "The Boston Globe."

Let's focus first on the president. This, obviously, as often is the case, something happens. The G-20 is a big economic meeting. Normally they're scheduled to talk about trade, talk about other economic issues. Almost always something happens in the world that becomes the dominant issue. This will be it.

[12:05:00] The president, before he got on Air Force One, tweeting this morning, "trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40 percent in the first quarter. So much for China working with us. But we had to give it a try."

The president left his first meeting with President Xi down in Mar-a- Lago quite optimistic that they had developed some sort of a personal understanding that China would help when it comes to North Korea. After that launch yesterday, the president -- he's not saying he's giving up on that approach, but he seems more than exasperated.

JOHN YANG, PBS "NEWSHOUR": It's not clear whether he's given up or whether he's trying to pressure or shame China into doing more.

KING: Right.

YANG: Another tweet this morning also is when he said that we have all these trade deals with countries who aren't helping us and it shouldn't be lost that they're looking at steel tariffs and accusing China of dumping steel.

KING: The question is, what can he do? And his own credibility is being tested here because the president said early on, China will help us solve this problem or we will do it by ourselves.

He's going to go to the G-20. I want to get to -- Secretary Tillerson has called -- a, there's an emergency United Nations session this afternoon. Secretary Tillerson says in a statement, "global action is required to stop a global threat. Any country that hosts North Korean guest workers, provides any economic or military benefits, or fails to fully implement U.N. Security Council resolutions is aiding and abetting a dangerous regime." He goes on to say, "all nations should publically demonstrate there are consequences."

But if you look at any nation that hosts guest workers, provides economic or military benefits. That, again, is China. The administration publically lashing out at China saying, do more, but what if it doesn't?

MATT VISER, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": It's also that, you know, looking at Trump's business career, his past background in his relationships with people were often transactional. And -- but they would sign a dotted line and move on. This is a different case with Xi, where he's trying to sort of move him in a certain direction, develop a relationship where you can sort of move somebody in a certain direction. And they don't seem to have that bond or that trust. And so what does President Trump do? People are -- there's more talk about maybe diplomacy. You know, do you head in a diplomatic direction. But, again, Trump was sort of very critical of the Iran deal, which was all about diplomacy and sort of tamping down nuclear threats. And that's sort of where he's at right now and does he head down that diplomatic path in a way that he criticized in the past.

KING: Right, and can he, to your point, if China said, we can get North Korea to the table. The table for what? Kim Jong-un has shown no indication he's willing to give up his missile program or his nuclear program because those are his tickets, in his view, to survival. The Trump administration has said the era of strategic patience is over. I assume they would only sit down if they had what they thought was a full commitment to dismantle the nuclear program. But the Clinton administration negotiated that deal. And the North Korean government immediately violated it. So is there -- is there a framework where you could conceivably at least test diplomacy?

JACKIE KUCINICH, "THE DAILY BEAST": It's -- well, and North Korea has said that is not on the table at this point. Now --

KING: And their leader -- and their leader just said he was slapping the American bastards in their face.


KING: That's a pretty hard to get to diplomacy from there.

KUCINICH: Yes, that is rather far from that line. And so we just -- we don't know -- it's one of the reasons that the meeting between President Trump and President Xi at this conference this week is very important, and worth watching. It was going to be worth watching anyway because of the tariffs, because of lots of other reasons. But now, because of North Korea, China doesn't have the same objectives in North Korea as the United States and can he -- can President Trump get them there, any closer to where the United States is on North Korea. We don't know the answer to that question yet. We just don't.

KING: And sometimes China's response is the things you're asking us to do could be counterproductive.


KING: If we cut off food, if we cut off energy, we don't know the reaction of the regime. They could lash out. They could launch weapons. They can shell artillery onto the South. And so you're asking us to be more harsh to them. But if Kim Jong-un thinks his regime is at all in question, what will he do?

JILL COLVIN, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Absolutely. And I mean I think what's really interesting here too is that this is a president who hasn't really been tested when it comes to whether he or Tillerson or anybody else in the administration is really capable of that kind of diplomatic outreach. You know, they alienated large swaths of Europe with the Paris Climate agreement decision. And this is just not -- we haven't seen that side of Trump yet. KING: Right, there's the complicated policy here, and this goes back,

whether you agree or disagree with President Trump, he inherited this. This goes back several administrations trying to deal with this regime. One of the most isolated and strange, to be polite, regimes on earth, and then the personal, when he's challenged like, it's a slap in your face or don't do this anymore and Kim Jong-un gets directly confrontational with President Trump.

Just to show the stakes of this, what this means, you heard Barbara Starr talking about, now that the Pentagon does access, this was an ICBM that is potentially capable, if not now very soon, a breach in the United States. I just want to look at the history of the North Korean missile program. You see the smaller lines there internally. If you went back years, they had short range missiles and the threat was really -- you know, U.S. troops in South Korea, without a doubt, but the threat was more regional. Then the intermediate range missiles. And these are the missile tests. If you go back to the Dear Leader, then this leader's father, missile tests, yes, but not like this. Kim Jong-un, a young man, 83 missile tests. I think 11 or 12 since Donald Trump became president of the United States. He uses firing missiles, a, to get attention, and -- but then what? What is he looking for besides people think, OK, he has missiles, OK, he's a nuclear power. What?

[12:10:12] VISER: Well, and so many of those have failed.

KING: Right.

VISER: And you almost have this, you know, laughing stock, you know, ability of the United States to laugh at their failures. In this case, you know, by all accounts this was successful and so you wonder at some point how that changes the thinking of the United States when they deal with North Korea, knowing that provocation has some major consequences, not only in the Asian region, which it always has, but to our own country, to Alaska, and, you know, potentially, depending on sort of how they progress in their capabilities, other parts of the West Coast. And so how does that change the negotiations if they get to negotiations and how does that change President Trump's ability to sort of needle a country that now has the capability of really punching back.

KING: And that -- and that for years has tried to ignore sanctions and just not -- and not show any great impact from sanctions, perhaps because there's a backdoor, because there are black market around those sanctions. But if you think about, yes, he's asked the Pentagon, the president has, for a list of military options, you could conceivably launch a strike on a missile facility or on a nuclear facility in North Korea, but you don't know what the North Koreans would do to react to that. Just to remind you, North Korea has an estimated million-man army. The proximity to Seoul is like that. There are U.S. troops there, 230,000 Americans, including nearly 30,000 servicemen and women, 10 million people live in Seoul. And so when people say it's a small hermit regime, you know, the United States is a world's greatest superpower, there's something that can be done, that's not necessarily the case because of the risks involved. YANG: The risks are different. I mean on the United States' side, they

look at the -- any military could escalate into a conflict on the peninsula. For the Chinese, they're worried about that border.

KING: Right.

YANG: That if there are economic -- more economic sanctions, if use disrupt the civil society inside North Korea, you can -- could have people surging across that border into China, which they don't want.

KING: They also want the refugees coming in.

YANG: Right.

KING: And they also don't want the regime -- they don't -- they don't want a unified Korea.

YANG: Right.

KING: They don't want that. So what does the president do when he gets off the plane? I mean you mentioned President Xi, that's part of it. You know, the president of South Korea and the prime minister of Japan will also be at this meeting. So they can have regional conversations. Is there a European as here as well, just isolation?

VISER: I think the pressure is maybe next on -- if there's a sanctions -- or if there's a U.N. kind of solution that, you know, involves conversations with China and Russia and getting their veto proof power on the Security Council to convince them to do something. And maybe on sanctions to try and squeeze the North Koreans a little bit more on this, but --

KING: In this particular -- this is one of the cases for people out there who are fans or not fans of the United Nations. This is one of those things where there have been meetings, there have been condemnation, there have been statements, there have been sanctions. Again, we go back to -- I covered the White House in the Bill Clinton administration into the George W. Bush administration. We've had these conversations now for a very long time.

YANG: But you're also talking about the isolation of North Korea. People forget how many nations there are that do have diplomatic relationships with Pyongyang.

KING: Right.

YANG: And you talk about the guest workers and other aid. The White House just read out a phone call to President el Sisi of Egypt in which the president reminded Egypt of the sanctions about guest workers in Egypt, about Egyptian aid to the North Korean military. So I think the -- there is some way to go. There may be some way to go before their -- as isolated as say Iran was during the sanctioned regime there.

KING: And we'll see if the president can make that case. Again, he's on his way to Europe for this big summit. And, also, a United Nations Security Council meeting this afternoon.

As we go to break, perhaps this is a sign of Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador, her sense of humor tweeting out yesterday, "spending my Fourth in meetings all day. Thanks, North Korea." I guess that's a little bit of humor there. More on the global challenges ahead.

But next, the Fourth of July means fireworks, parades and, for the most part, members of Congress in hiding.

And speaking of fireworks, let's have a little sampling of last night's celebrations across the United States.


[12:18:38] KING: Take a peek here, McAllen, Texas. Protesters making clear they don't like the role Senator Ted Cruz is playing in trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.




KING: But let's give some kudos to Senator Cruz for understanding, especially on the Fourth of July, democracy is supposed to be a little feisty.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: You know, one of the great things about freedom in America is even people who disagree can speak out. And there's a small group of people on the left who, right now, are very angry and they're expressing their views.


KING: Senator Cruz, sadly, was more the exception than the rule. More and more lawmakers are skipping holiday parades and town halls back home because they don't want to face questions and protests. Minnesota Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen, for example, skipped the Fourth of July parade in Edina, so protesters stepped in.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He never has town halls. He didn't show up to this. So we decided to take his place.


KING: They showed up to take his place. Edina, Minnesota, there.

That's clever. It's a stunt, but stunts are allowed in democracy. That's the way it's supposed to work. You organize, you go out, you yell at your congressman, sometimes you say "thank you" to your congressman or congresswoman or your senator. Why is it -- I don't want to make too much of this, but why is it -- I

guess it's obvious -- that fewer and fewer just don't -- they work for the people. Why won't they go out and meet to the people, especially when the people are mad about something? That makes it more important.

[12:20:05] COLVIN: We've seen what's happened at these town halls where, you know, Republicans show up and they're just -- there's a deluge of hundreds or thousands of people who are there booing and screaming at them. You understand why they don't want to face that. There's no obligation for them to have to stand up and take that kind of thing. But, you know what, I think there's an interesting thing with the timing here. With the vote delayed, you know, you now have members having to go back home now, having to face the people who are actually going to be effected by these policies and hearing from them. And I actually do wonder whether the folks who did show up, who did schedule events, maybe are thinking about it maybe a tad bit differently now.

KING: It -- I would assume, maybe not, but I would at least assume that some of those progressives who don't like what Ted Cruz is doing, who probably don't like anything Ted Cruz has done, at least do they give him some respect because he's not afraid to show up at the event and he acknowledges that -- sure, he says it's a small group on the left. He gets his little politics in there as well. But, so what, that's how it's supposed to work.

KUCINICH: Well, and that's what you hear from these protesters, what the lawmakers say is, why am I going to these events that are full of people who, you know, are maybe not in my district, maybe aren't even from the state. You hear a lot of that, too. Whether or not it's true.

But -- I mean but, again, as you said, why not just go? I mean this is -- this is democracy. And you're seeing -- we were talking a little bit during the break, you're seeing senators, in particular, doing other things. Rob Portman's staff sent out a notice today that showed rob Portman, you know, hugging people during a parade and how well liked Rob Portman is. But then they mentioned that he was visiting centers for people who were dealing with opioid abuse. He's having a roundtable. They're choosing these smaller events that still allows them to talk to people -- and it's not like they are locking themselves in their office -- but aren't necessarily exposing them to the free-for-alls that some of these town halls have become.

KING: Right. This matters, and I should have set up the context, it matters because Senate Republicans are in an internal family feud over what to do about repealing and replacing Obamacare. They wanted to pass a bill last week. Now they're hoping to pass a bill next week. But they're still working on this. Rob Portman one of the more moderate members who doesn't like the Medicaid cuts in the proposal as it now sands, doesn't think there's enough money for drug treatment of the opioid. With him on what we'll call the left of the Republican, the more moderate side of the Republican conference is Susan Collins of Maine, who did march in a parade back home and she says she's glad she marched because she right now is a "no" vote, and she says as she marched and as she listened to her constituents, she believes most of them are with her. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: What I've been hearing the entire recess is people telling me to be strong, that they have a lot of concerns about the health care bill in the Senate. They want me to keep working on it, but they don't want me to support it in its current form. I still am a "no" unless the bill is dramatically changed.


KING: And so they're at home and she's still a "no" unless it's dramatically changed. Senator Cruz says he's still a "no," but trying to change it as well. The issue in trying to get to 50 votes is, Senator Cruz is trying to take it to the right, Senator Collins is trying to take it to the left. If either one of them succeeds, you lose the other side. This math still looks, at the moment, impossible to me. Does anyone see it otherwise?

VISER: No. And I think your -- you know, if Mitch McConnell's watching this, you know, his stomach's turning a little bit because when people go back to their districts they tend to get more entrenched in their prior positions than to sort of lean more toward compromise. I think what's interesting here too, though, is that Collins was sort of the exception in marching in a Fourth of July parade. You know, senators even avoiding that sort of softball, you know, pitch down the middle, you know, going to a parade to march in because they're so afraid of engaging with constituents. And "The Washington Post" had a good line today too about, there are more senators on this trip to Afghanistan --


VISER: Than there are having town hall meetings.

KING: And do we see anything from the time back home that shows the math is shifting in any way at all?

COLVIN: I think I've seen no evidence of that. I don't know about you, but at this point, not.

VISER: Right.

YANG: Which is precisely why Mitch McConnell wanted the vote before they went home --


YANG: Because this is going to make it harder -- harder for them when they get back.

KING: That makes it harder.

KUCINICH: Particularly these moderates. Particular Dean Heller in Nevada. And you mentioned Susan Collins, Rob Portman. They're hearing from people, not necessarily protesters, but people who are affected by this bill. Susan Collins had another line in I think that same "Washington Post" story that said -- oh, no, I'm sorry, it was Angus King, who is an independent. But if you look at this bill, it's the worst bill you could possibly have for Maine. So they are getting -- they're hearing from people and, yes, Mitch McConnell has to be frustrated by this because he is someone that's known as a deal maker, as someone who can get things done. But right now the numbers are just not there for them.

KING: And it matters, a, if you care about the health care debate, whatever side you're on. Number two, it matters because we're two weeks away from the six month mark of the Trump presidency and this health care debate has sort of held Congress hostage to getting around to some of the other parts of the agenda. We'll keep an eye on that as members of the Senate lead the parades or leave hiding, come back to Washington.

[12:25:02] Up next, Air Force One is en route to Europe and protesters are waiting for President Trump.


KING: Welcome back.

Air Force One is over the Atlantic this hour as President Trump heads to some high stakes meetings in Europe. Poland first and then the G-20 economic summit in Germany as Mr. Trump makes just his second international trip as president. The big meetings include his first face-to-face meeting with Vladimir Putin. Also on tap, China's president, Xi Jinping and sit-downs with two European allies, with whom Mr. Trump has big disagreements at the moment, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister Theresa May of the U.K.

CNN's Nic Robertson is live in Hamburg, where one of the interesting G-20 dynamics this time, Nick, will include demonstrations much closer to the event site than we've become accustomed to in recent years. Why is that?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, there is a reason for it. Quite simply, Angela Merkel has chosen to hold this summit in an environment, in a location that can be surrounded by protesters. It's not, as we see, some summits on a remote hilltop that the whole village or the town around it is secure. And there will be protesters here. There were protesters last night. The police had to turn a water cannon on about 1,000 of them. They just sort of rained in on them. Didn't wash them off the streets. There was a women's protest just down beside here a little while ago.