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Isa Soares Tonight
Hope of Finding Survivors Fading As Death Toll Nears 23k; New Wave of Russian-Missile Strikes Hits Ukraine; Exiled Ethnic Uyghurs From China Discover Relatives Left Behind Are Being Tracked, Detained By Authorities; WH: U.S. Shot Down Another "High-Altitude Object" Over Alaska. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired February 10, 2023 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: A very warm welcome to the show, everyone, I'm Isa Soares. Tonight, a week of misery in Turkey and Syria,
where the earthquake death toll has now surpassed 22,000. Then, a new barrage of missile strikes targets energy facilities right across Ukraine.
And then later this hour, Nicaragua releases more than 200 political prisoners.
I'll speak to human rights defender Bianca Jaga (ph) about what's behind the surprise move by the government. Plus, the Great Salt Lake close to an
ecological disaster that could threaten 2.5 million Americans. But first this hour, nearly 23,000 dead, hundreds of thousands left homeless, and the
tragedy is still unfolding five days since an earthquake leveled parts of Syria and Turkey.
Rescuers are pulling far more bodies than survivors from the rubble. But they aren't giving up as long as there's a chance for miracles. Today, we
saw a family of six rescued alive in Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is promising new help for survivors, saying the government will cover their
rent for one year.
Meanwhile, in Syria, Bashar al-Assad has now approved sending aid into rebel-held territory but didn't give any timeline. And these pictures
you're looking at really underscore the pain of many Syrian families who survived years of war only to use loved ones -- lose loved ones to the
This man you're looking at here sitting amid the ruins of his home, bearing tears in his baby's clothing. Well, our Nick Paton Walsh is in Antakya, one
of the hardest-hit areas in Turkey. He shows us how the quake has reduced much of the city to ruins.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): In Antakya, any sign of hope will do. Rescuers rush in these buildings, first
three floors have collapsed down, but left their upper floors upright. And little Yamor (ph) aged eight is inside, possibly alive. By the time they
get her to the ambulance, though, it's clear they were too late.
Her mother, outside, only able to watch her everything vanish. "My little one", she says. "Don't take her! Don't let her get lost!" Antakya streets,
a chilling patchwork of what's left dancing and what's not left. In its ruins, anxious crowds of rescuers and locals thinking they heard someone
alive, demanding silence so they can listen again.
Down here is Ahmed (ph), the rescuers say, alert, responsive, a Syrian refugee. The building next to him barely hanging on at an angle. Their
work, desperately wishing it were quicker. Across the city, hell has landed. This man, guarding his neighbor's books with his father-in-law next
to the body of his mother-in-law. He gestures behind him to where he once lived.
(on camera): It's kind of hard to get your head around just how inhabitable a city of this size has become so fast. Literally, every street you walk
down has a scene like this, and the roads out! Well, they are jammed full of people, trying to get away into safety, because the buildings still
could collapse, and the roads in -- rescuers, people even trying to get their possessions back. And those who have stayed lining every part of the
green spaces we can find with tents, to try and stay warm.
(voice-over): The trees, perhaps in just enough space away from buildings that could crumble, a new world for children, smiling, neither oblivious
nor somehow shaken too hard. Dusk, and the smoke of fire settles with the dust to choke the streets. But back where we were an hour earlier, there
has been relief.
Ahmed (ph) was saved, pulled out from the hole, his family, perhaps, still inside. The medics keep asking him, did you hear any signs of life from
them? "No", he says. They say, he cannot wait for them, and he must be treated after 86 hours in tuned. The weight of grief even as he is saved.
His friend, Jamil (ph), was pulled from the rubble earlier. "I have been given life again", he says. "I saw death before my eyes. I saw my own
grave." The same twist of fate here. There have been noises, deep inside the bottom of what was once an apartment block. First, out comes one man,
Suleiman (ph), aged 21. The frantic work of medics here suggesting he did not make it.
(on camera): I think it's the impossibility of hope here that somebody could emerge after all this time, alive, from a wreckage that's driving
this large crowd of rescuers. Most intense work done by hand, right at the front of the rubble there.
(voice-over): Out comes a four-year-old boy, named Alpazelan (ph) rescuers said. Alive, seen trying even to take off his oxygen mask, his father Tolga
(ph), who follows shortly, does not seem to move. Eighty, nine hours in the rubble, they both tore a world apart, but found enough mercy to spare its
youngest. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Antakya, Turkey.
SOARES: So much heartbreak there. Well, the White Helmets, officially known as Syria Civil Defense, are digging for survivors and helping people
recover from this disaster. Some volunteers say tens of thousands of families in northwestern Syria are now homeless. Oubadah Alwan is a media
coordinator for the White Helmets and he joins me now.
Oubadah, thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us. I know you're exceptionally busy. Just give us a sense of your own sense, really,
of the scale of the devastation on the ground in Syria.
OUBADAH ALWAN, MEDIA COORDINATOR, THE WHITE HELMETS: Yes, thank you so much for having us. I mean, it's very difficult to know or even to begin
catastrophe and disaster doesn't really even begin to describe what's happening in Syria. It's been five days now, and no humanitarian aid or
help, in terms of earthquake response, has entered Syria.
We're talking about -- our reports are saying that 30,000 people are now displaced or homeless, 2,000 people and above are dead, and approximately
3,000 have been injured. The biggest issue right now is that there is no shelter. There is no safe zone. There's no safe place to go even when we
have been able to save people out of the rubble alive, the question is, what's next?
Where do they go? Houses are destroyed. Medical centers are above their capacity. The situation is just very bad right now.
SOARES: Oubadah, we'll talk aid in just a second. In terms of shelter, where are people staying? Where are people being looked after?
ALWAN: There's really no shelters at the moment. People are making good with what they have right now. People are out in the streets, and we're in
the midst of a very harsh Winter in Syria. So, people are just kind of going wherever they can at the moment, but there's no organized shelters
SOARES: And do you have a sense of the number of people impacted at this stage?
ALWAN: Impacted in what sense? In terms of homelessness and displacement?
ALWAN: Yes, about 30,000 people, as far as we know.
SOARES: Thirty thousand, let's talk aid, then, you said --
ALWAN: Yes --
SOARES: That the problem is aid, hasn't started to arrive. From what I understand, I was wondering if you can clarify this for us because we're
ALWAN: Yes --
SOARES: Of course, from the U.N. that the first convoy of aid --
ALWAN: Yes --
SOARES: Has crossed into northwestern Syria. Is this part, Oubadah of the regular aid that the U.N. sends, or is this additional aid for the
earthquake, post earthquake?
ALWAN: Yes, of course, the northwest Syria relies on humanitarian aid from Syria. This is a part of a regular convoy that has been there routinely
entering Syria. It was disrupted during the times of the earthquakes, but has continued again. But the problem is, none of this aid is helping an
earthquake response at the moment.
We need people, we need manpower, we need tools to help the people out of the rubble. We need fuel. We need ambulances and vehicles. None of this has
been provided at the moment for the earthquake response.
SOARES: Right, and have you been told that you heard as to when that will be arriving with any sort of manpower, any help will be coming?
ALWAN: No, we have not. We've just been told that, I mean, things are in the plans, things are in the works, but the problem is, we're five days too
late. There are still people now trapped under the rubble, and we don't know how much longer they can last.
I mean, I was hearing from my colleagues on the ground in Syria, that in the beginning of this catastrophe, you could hear the sounds of people
under the rubble, screaming and calling out, and now, these voices have died.
SOARES: Yes, I know, it's bitterly cold as well, so I can't fathom what, like you said, you know, people on the ground using probably their bare
hands, trying to get to those under the rubble. But like you said, Oubadah, this is five days. How frustrated, how disappointed are you at this stage
by the international community?
ALWAN: I mean, it's very disappointing. I think the people in Syria right now are feeling very alone. I know my colleagues have expressed frustration
and isolation as well. There's just -- I mean, no reason or excuse that aid hasn't been provided in such a disastrous time.
SOARES: And we've heard -- we've heard today from the Syrian government that they've approved sending aid to rebel territory, but it hasn't been
given some sort of timeline.
SOARES: What do you make of that?
ALWAN: I mean, like I said before, we're five days too late to receive aid. Of course, aid, we are more than happy and welcome to receive aid at any
time. But time is not on our side. We're racing against time to save the most amount of people that we can.
SOARES: I know, Oubadah, finally, give us a sense of some of the stories that you have been hearing on the ground. You said that shelter is one, of
course, one of the most for the things that you need the most right now. Among many other things that you've outlined but give us some of the --
some of the stories from your team on the ground, of the hardships that everyone is facing right now.
ALWAN: I mean, at this point on day five, we're digging out a lot more dead people than alive people. So, it's been very demoralizing on our
colleagues. Whenever we do our search and rescue responses, we always go with the idea that we are saving someone alive. We always have a hope.
But at the moment, that kind of hope might not be as realistic as we think it is. A group of 3,000 volunteers dealing with the population of 4 million
SOARES: And so, what is your message --
ALWAN: I'm sorry --
SOARES: To the international community?
ALWAN: My message to the international community is like I was saying, our organization does not have the capacity to deal with this scale of this
tragedy. Without outside help, I mean, the future is looking very bleak at the moment. I can't see Syria recovering or the situation getting any
better without possible earthquake aid.
SOARES: Which, clearly, is very much needed, with the U.N. said they are bringing some aid in, but like you said, you said there's part of the
regular aid, not necessarily the new aid post earthquake. Oubadah Alwan, really appreciate you taking the time and wishing you and your team on the
ground the very best of luck. Thank you.
ALWAN: Thank you very much.
SOARES: Well, repairs are underway in Ukraine after a massive Russian missile assault targeted energy infrastructure, causing it extensive damage
and emergency blackouts. Ukraine's Air Force says it shot down 61 missiles and five drones in a widespread attack on western central as well as
Military officials say some 35 Russian surface-to-air missile struck the city of Zaporizhzhia and the Kharkiv region. One explosion blowing a car on
top of a house. This latest attack on all of Ukraine comes as officials warn that Russia is preparing a new Spring offensive in the east.
Our David McKenzie joins me now from Kyiv. David, good to see you. So, most of these drones from what I understand, the missiles were taken down. But
what about those that did manage to kind of pierce the air defense system? What kind of damage was done here?
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isa, you're right. Many of these drones and missiles were taken down by air defenses of the
Ukrainians, and that it would be seen as a success here. But some did get through, and those that did get through caused in some places extensive
damage, and particularly to the energy infrastructure.
And you've seen this pattern for some time now, Isa, with Russians targeting civilian infrastructure, particularly power plants, both hydro
and coal power plants today, causing extensive damage. In large parts of the country, there have managed to keep the power on, but in these Winter
months, it's a huge strain on the civilian infrastructure, on the attempts to keep people warm, the lights on, in the midst of this ongoing conflict.
So, they were big strides, well, I should say, damaging strikes to the west of where I'm standing right now today. Also to the south. Multiple strikes
just in the space of one hour, in and around Zaporizhzhia in the south.
It shows that the Russians continue to try cripple this nation during this conflict. Isa?
SOARES: And David, we are just getting word that Russia suffered a major defeat near Vuhledar. What more can you tell us about that?
MCKENZIE: Well, much of this information is coming from at least, both from the video that we're going to show. Now, which appears to show extensive
losses of Russian armored column and forces, and the planes around Vuhledar in the east of the country, where there has been extensive fighting, inch-
by-inch fighting over the past few weeks and months.
And now, a Russian blogger who, you've got to take with a pinch of salt, has said that the Russians have suffered significant losses there. It
appears that the town is still under a great deal of fighting, of course, but the control has been overall maintained by the Ukrainians in much of
these areas, digging in with what appears to be an increased assault on their positions, particularly in the east and the northeast in recent
But that video they are showing their dramatic losses, those armored vehicles at a standstill, almost being picked off by Ukrainian forces. This
-- Ukrainians have been saying that the Russians have taken severe losses, but there have been also losses of course, in the Ukrainian side, and they
say in certain areas, they are running low on ammunition.
Again, the renewed calls from President Zelenskyy, asking for arms and ammunition, for it to be brought into the country more quickly and for more
advanced weapon systems to come in, in the face of that potential Spring offensive that everyone is anticipating in and around or beyond the first
anniversary of this conflict. Isa?
SOARES: David McKenzie for us this hour in Kyiv, Ukraine, thanks very much, David. Well, just south of Ukraine, Moldova's pro-western president has
nominated her defense adviser to become prime minister hours after the previous prime minister and her cabinet resigned. The shake-up comes amid
economic turmoil, an impact from the Ukraine war.
Early on Friday, right before the government dissolved, a Russian cruise missile crossed over Moldovan territory. The president's new nominee for
prime minister is promising to press on with his country's bid to join the European Union and keep Moldova free of Russian influence. We'll stay on
top of that story for you.
And still to come tonight, a six-year-old child is among the dead after what Israeli police call a terror attack in east Jerusalem. That is next.
SOARES: Welcome back everyone. Let me bring you up-to-date with some news we are getting. We are hearing from President Joe Biden will be visiting
Poland this month to mark the one year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine. Of course, that anniversary is on the 24th of February, you are
seeing John Kirby there who is addressing the media, we are listening to what he is saying.
Of course, as soon as we have more details, we will bring that to you. But from what we understand, that President Joe Biden will visit Poland from
February the 20th to the 22nd. So, that's not this week, it's next week from what I understand. The White House has said that he would meet
Poland's President Duda while he's there, and other leaders from the region.
And he will deliver remarks ahead of that -- of that anniversary, official anniversary on February 24th, when of course, Russia invaded Ukraine. As
we've been hearing of course, from our correspondent, McKenzie, we are hearing that Russians are preparing for an offensive. And so it's an
important time of course, to get allies together, and it's something we've seen of course, with President Zelenskyy as he visits the U.K., but also
Brussels, we'll stay on top of the story for you.
Now, Israeli police are investigating a deadly attack in east Jerusalem, calling it terrorism. They say a Palestinian man rammed his car into a
group of people waiting at a bus stop, killing two including a six-year-old child. Police say the attacker was shot dead at the scene. Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin has ordered the suspect's home sealed as well as demolished.
Let's get more now from CNN's Hadas Gold who is live for us this hour in Jerusalem. So, Hadas, what more are you learning about the attack and about
HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Well, it took place in the afternoon right around -- I think it was like 3:30 local -- 1:30 local,
excuse me in Remote (ph), which is a neighborhood in northeast Jerusalem. And apparently, this man driving this car, according to eyewitnesses,
accelerated as he approached this bus stop that was full of people waiting.
And on the scene, killed was a six-year-old boy as well as a 20-year-old man. At least, five others were injured, including another child who was
reportedly, critically injured. And according to Israeli police, an off- duty police officer from video they have released shot the man while he was still in the car.
Police have identified him as a 30 or 31-year-old man from east Jerusalem, from a Palestinian neighborhood in east Jerusalem. As you noted, the
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately calling for the man's home to be sealed and demolished. Although, we are hearing just in the last
few minutes from the man's family, one of my producers speaking with the man's uncle who actually says that the man was released from hospital just
about a day ago.
It's not clear for what, but that could of course play into what happened here. Regardless though, Israeli officials as you've noted are calling this
a terror attack. And the National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has called for roadblocks to be set up in the man's neighborhood. Take a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ITAMAR BEN-GIVR, MINISTER, NATIONAL SECURITY (through translator): I instructed the police to set up roadblocks around Isawiya and stop one by
one, and to simply check every vehicle. I wanted to do a full closure, but there is a legal question about it and we will discuss it. In any case, I
instructed the police to deploy roadblocks and they're deploying roadblocks around Isawiya..
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLD: Now, of course, this is rather controversial, some people call it collective punishment, putting up roadblocks in the neighborhood. But
regardless, this is causing a lot of concern especially because this is coming exactly two weeks after that attack in another northeast Jerusalem
neighborhood two weeks ago that killed seven people outside of a synagogue.
That neighborhood is actually not very far from where this attack took place. Of course, we've been in this sort of endless cycle of violence
between Israelis and Palestinians. We're not even fully into the second month of the year, and already it's been one of the deadliest periods in
Of course, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was just here just about a week ago, calling for calm. He had senior members of his staff stay on to
try to continue dialogue and consultations. But clearly, I mean, the tension, the violence just continues. Isa?
SOARES: Hadas Gold there for us this hour, thanks very much, Hadas. Well, after years without contact, several exiled ethnic Uyghurs are learning
what has happened to their families. It is thanks to a new online tool that enables the public to search through a massive trove of documents.
The information shows the scope of the surveillance apparatus Beijing uses to monitor the Uyghur population in Xinjiang. CNN's Ivan Watson has this
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The search for missing loved ones.
ABDUWELI AYUP, UYGHUR EXILED IN NORWAY: I am putting in my younger sister's IE number.
WATSON: Abduweli Ayup is a human rights activist and ethnic Uyghur from China's Xinjiang region. From exiled in Norway, he looks for the first time
at a Chinese police file from 2017 on his sister Sajida (ph).
AYUP: Incidentally, in detail.
WATSON: He hasn't spoken to her in years.
AYUP: She got arrested September 6th and sent to education camps, stayed there about a month, and then sent her to detention center and sentenced 11
WATSON: The Chinese police file states that Sajida (ph) Ayup is a two-faced or treasonous government official. Police apparently flagged the high
school geography teacher because of ties to her brother, an outspoken critic once jailed by the Chinese government.
AYUP: The government document told me that yes, it is, it is related to you and it is your fault.
WATSON: Ayup got early access to this new search engine. It's linked to tens of thousands of files that were hacked from police computers in
AYUP: It's 830,000 different people are in these files, and it's clear from the files that tens of thousands of them are detained.
WATSON: Adrian Zenz, a researcher with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, first released some of the hacked police files last year. The
Chinese government has not denied their authenticity, but state media has slammed his analysis of the data, calling it disinformation.
Beijing denies it committed human rights abuses while detaining up to 2 million ethnic Uyghurs and other minority groups in re-education camps in
Xinjiang, a campaign of mass repression the U.S. government claims amounts to genocide. Zenz launched the search engine, hoping it will provide the
Uyghur Diaspora information about family members back home in Xinjiang.
ADRIAN ZENZ, VICTIMS OF COMMUNISM MEMORIAL FOUNDATION: The black hole is the most terrifying thing, and I think that's part of why the Chinese state
creates this black hole, it's the most terrifying thing that can be done, that you don't even know the fate of a loved one is even alive or dead.
WATSON: Mamatjan Juma remembers June 12th, 2006, the last time he saw his family.
MAMATJAN JUMA, UYGHUR IN U.S.: I remember that day, I was passing the airport checkpoint, and they were waving, and I saw them, their images
still in my mind, you know, the picture, it comes to me sometimes. That's the last time I saw my brothers.
WATSON: Juma is now a journalist with "Radio Free" Asia's Uyghur Language Service in Washington D. C., which Beijing labels as an anti-China
propaganda organization. Unable to go home for fear of arrest, and unwilling to even call his relatives for fear they could then be punished.
JUMA: Let's see, I'm going to search one of my brothers.
WATSON: So now, he can only look at their police files.
(on camera): Did the files confirm the detention of any of your loved ones?
JUMA: Yes, detention of three of my brothers, yes. And then, I found one of my brother's pictures in that file.
WATSON (voice-over): A mug-shot of his younger brother, Isajan (ph) taken into detention.
(on camera): How does he look?
JUMA: He looks like he lost his soul. It gives you a feeling of guilt, you know, because of that, they're tied to you and they're persecuted. It's not
really any kind of easy feeling to digest.
WATSON (voice-over): A photo of Juma and his brothers in happier times.
JUMA: I wish I could go back to this moment, you know, I wish I could go back to this moment.
WATSON: Today, Juma is left piecing together what happened to his family through the Chinese police files, and the level of detail, even on people
who were never accused of crimes is chilling.
JUMA: Fingerprints, DNA samples, voice samples, profile pictures, iris scans, these are the biometric information they collected on my mother.
When you look at it, so you see this perfect example of a full-blown surveillance state.
WATSON: Half a world away in Adelaide, Australia, Mayaba Yakub Sella (ph) just found a police file for her 17-year-old nephew.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's insane. That's terrible. No, I didn't expect that.
WATSON: The file states that in 2017, when the boy was only 12, police labeled him category two, a highly suspicious accomplice of a public
security for terrorism case, and that is not all.
MARHABA YAKUB SALAY, UYGHUR: Yes, this is my nice.
WATSON: Your niece has a police file.
SALAY: No way.
WATSON: The file claims that, by the age of 15, Marhaba's niece traveled extensively, something her aunt denies.
SALAY: Algeria, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Dubai, Egypt, Pakistan, no way. Does that mean they are saying that she has been in these countries?
WATSON: So far, neither child has been detained. But Salay worries for their future. Their mother, Mayila her sister, has already been in and out
of detention for years, accused of financing terrorism for wiring money to her parents in Australia to help buy a house.
WATSON: If you could tell them something, what would you like to tell them?
SALAY: I am so sorry what's happening to them. And I'm so sorry what's happening to their mother, my sister. I'm sorry I can't help them. They
deserve so much better than this. They are innocent.
WATSON: The more than 800,000 police profiles only provide a partial snapshot at the broader system of surveillance and repression in Xinjiang.
They don't alleviate the survivor's guilt shared by many relatives living abroad, desperate to learn anything about their loved ones back in China.
Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.
SOARES: And still to come tonight, he's the man behind some of the biggest shows on Netflix. But for the past 19 months, he's been living through hell
after his father, himself a former diplomat, was taken prisoner in Nicaragua. Now, a fairytale ending, or is it? We take a closer look at the
situation in Nicaragua as activist Bianca Jagger joins us live.
SOARES: I want to take you to the White House where you can see U.S. National Security Council John Kirby is speaking. Let's listen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the appearance like the Chinese aircraft or was it like --
JOHN KIRBY, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN: No, it was -- it was much, much smaller than the spy balloon that we took down last Saturday.
The way it was described to me was roughly the size of a small car as opposed to a payload that was, like, two or three buses size, right? So
much, much smaller. And they're not of the same -- not -- no significant payload, if you will.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And likely is it now the policy of the United States that if unidentified aircraft are over U.S. territory, that it is likely
the President will choose to shoot it down?
KIRBY: The President will always act in the best interest of our national security and in the safety and security of the American people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John, so Pentagon orders this new object be taken down over Alaska.
KIRBY: The President ordered it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President ordered it. So is it a fair takeaway then that the Pentagon regrets not taking down the first balloon before it
crossed the entire U.S.?
KIRBY: Well, I'm not going to shoot for the Pentagon. I can tell you that the President doesn't regret the way that we handled the first balloon.
That time -- first of all, apples and oranges here in terms of size. As I said, this was a size of a small car and it was over a very sparsely
populated area, but also more critically over -- it was over water space when we ordered this down as we did the last one, but a completely
different size. And the debris field for this, we expect to be much, much smaller than would have been for the other one. That's difference one.
Difference two, we knew for a fact that the PRC balloon that we shot down last week was in fact a surveillance asset.
And capable of surveillance over sensitive military sites. And that it had self propulsion and maneuver capabilities. There's no indication that this
one did. The other one, the first one, was able to maneuver and loiter, slow down, speed up. It was very purposeful, that flight path, within
inside the inside the Jetstream.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That would suggest that maybe you shot it out over Alaska, too, though?
KIRBY: Well, the Pentagon's already spoken to this question about whether or not they should have or could have shot it down over Alaska airspace so
that we were free to -- it was two - hours and hours of testimony yesterday on that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On the communications, though, we still don't know, and correct me if I'm wrong, we don't know what intelligence or
communications could have been collected or what devices they were targeting, as I understand it. So that being said, how can the President
say it was not a major breach? We don't know that.
KIRBY: What we do know is we knew the basic flight path of this thing. And we were able to take steps at sensitive military sites that we believed
would be all along the flight path to significantly curtail any intelligence ability that the Chinese could get from the balloon, certainly
curtail anything that would be above and beyond, you know, what they normally try to collect through other means.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, John. Was this latest object that was shot down within the last hour, was that detected based upon any information gleaned
from the monitoring of the last balloon over the last over -- last week in terms of what you've learned about that Chinese program that informed the
decision that you should just shot them down?
KIRBY: I think I'd be careful saying that anything specific to what we've learned from that last platform, and, you know, we did get -- we were able
to collect some information from it while I was in flight. That was another reason why we let it traverse overland the way it did, but I would be -- I
would not say that information gleaned from our surveillance of that surveillance balloon provided insights that permitted this detection and
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And as of this moment, are you convinced that you shot down -- do you know what you shot down, that it wasn't just, you know, a
harmless weather balloon, that, you know, that there was some motivation, wind is over U.S. airspace or is it truly an --
KIRBY: I think we're going to try to learn more. I can tell you it was an object and it was at 40,000 feet and the predominant concern by the
president was the safety of flight issue at that altitude. And remember, the one that we shot down last Saturday, it was at 65 plus thousand feet so
no threat to civilian aircraft. This one, at 40,000 feet, could have posed a threat to civilian aircraft. And it did not appear to have the
maneuverable capability that the other one did. So, you know, virtually at the whim of the wind.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. So just thank you for this. So to follow up on what you just said about civilian aircraft, is that what you meant
initially when you said there was a reasonable threat to shoot it down or was there a --
KIRBY: My exact words were reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. And to -- given what you said earlier about intent with regard to the Chinese spy balloon, does the U.S. give any credence to
the Chinese argument that the balloon accidentally veered off course and ended up where it did?
KIRBY: The -- which -- you're talking about the one from last week?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
KIRBY: Yes. Say that again? That was --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the U.S. give any credence to the Chinese argument that this thing accidentally veered off course, and ended up where
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So was it targeting specific places? Was it targeting military sites?
KIRBY: What we know is that the flight path executed took it over sensitive military sites. What we also know is that it could maneuver, that it had
propulsion capability and steerage capability, and could slow down, speed up. And that it was on a path to transit over sensitive military sites.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Admiral Kirby. On the latest object, you said it did not appear to have the maneuverability capabilities that the Chinese
spy balloon have. Did it have any maneuverability or was it flying on its own?
KIRBY: At this time, all I can tell you is it did not appear to have the ability to independently maneuver. We'll attempt recovery and we'll see
what we can learn more from it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry, just one more on the Chinese spy balloon.
We're reporting that the U.S. is about to impose export controls on Chinese companies that are believed to have been involved in that Balloon
Surveillance Program. Can you confirm that and say when the administration might impose those export controls?
KIRBY: I'm not in the position to confirm those reports right now. And I'd refer you to the Department of Treasury.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Admiral. I believe you said this was shot down or at least it landed in the waters or the frozen waters off the coast
of Alaska, correct?
KIRBY: That is our initial assessment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, is the policy still, considering the first one was shot down off the east coast and this high altitude object was shot down
off the west coast, is the policy, at this point in time, you could shoot it down if it's over a body of water?
KIRBY: I wouldn't derive from these two incidents some sort of policy that comes out of it. The President will always act in the best interest of the
American people and International Security. Last week, we were talking about a surveillance asset that was purposely flown over the Continental
United States. In the case, today, we're talking about an object, again, we don't know a lot about it, but that at its altitude represented a potential
threat to the safety of flying customers, you know, civil air traffic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Based on your broad and deep experience, who do you think might own or have flown this thing in the air?
KIRBY: I have no idea.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They don't know who owns it and who's flying it, but has anyone in the administration reached out to the Chinese to see whether
they will claim this new object?
KIRBY: I know no outreach this afternoon to the Chinese government about this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The State Department, over the weekend, or last few days, since the first spy balloon, confirmed that they think that these
Chinese spy balloons have gone to over 40 countries. Considering that fact and this new development today, what's next on a larger diplomatic front?
The U.S. talking with allies about how to police the skies, about how to bring this to the U.N. to figure out what to do?
KIRBY: We are talking to dozens of nations who we know have had been overflown by Chinese surveillance balloons, the -- part of this program
that the Chinese have invested in, to share with them the context and information that we've learned by the forensics we've done since we came in
office about this particular program. And I would remind you that we briefed Congress in a classified setting back in August about this. This is
not something we haven't been trying to learn more about.
We've been aware of it and trying to glean more information from it. And this -- we expect that the recovery of the debris from the balloon we shot
down on Saturday, last Saturday, will help us gain even more information. But we are in the active conversations with many of these countries who we
know have been overflown.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks, John.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Where specifically in Alaska was the high-altitude object shot down?
KIRBY: So, I'm going to -- the Pentagon will be talking more about this a little bit later. They'll probably have more detail for you. But the
general area would be just off the very, very north eastern part of Alaska right near the Alaska-Canada border.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, near the Arctic Ocean?
KIRBY: They're -- yes. In fact, that's where it went down on that northern side of Alaska, near the Canadian border on water that is frozen in the --
yes, in the Arctic Ocean.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was never over land? It was never over Alaska?
KIRBY: No, it was. It was.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it was shot down within the last hour. When did -- you said -- when did the U.S. first get intelligence that it existed?
KIRBY: The knowledge about the balloon and the track first came to our attention last evening.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What time thereabouts?
KIRBY: I don't have an exact time on the clock for you. It was last evening.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's -- have you ruled out or not ruled out that you have not determined that it was surveillance in nature, correct? You
KIRBY: We haven't ruled anything in or out. We -- that's why we're calling this thing an object and --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just called it a balloon. You misspoke there?
KIRBY: I'm sorry. It's not a -- yes. I'm sorry. You guys have --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you can't say it's a balloon either?
KIRBY: You guys have a balloon on the brain right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
KIRBY: This was an object. Let me just clarify, I'm not classifying it as a balloon right now, it's an object We're still trying to learn more from it,
that it landed on what -- on water that is frozen, could help us assist -- make it easier for us to try to recover some of the debris. U.S. Northern
Command is examining what the possibilities for that are.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And finally, you said you have no knowledge of any outreach to the Chinese yet from the administration. Are there plans to
reach out and ask whether they know --
KIRBY: I know no plans to reach out to the Chinese specifically on this. I want to stress again, we don't know what entity owns this object. There's
no indication that it's from a nation, or an institution, or an individual. We just don't know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a foreign entity, is that right?
KIRBY: We don't know who owns this object.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Admiral.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Thanks. Are you tracking any other similar objects right now at this time?
KIRBY: I'm not aware of any other tracks.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then also, I know that you said that this was due to a civilian aircraft threat. But why not wait until it's over warmer
water where you could more easily recover?
KIRBY: It wasn't heading over warmer water, it was heading over the Arctic. It's not very warm.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Karina (ph). Thank you, Admiral. One question on today's incident, and then one on a separate subject, if I may,
given how little was known about this object at the time that our forces shot it down, is it safe to say that when the President ordered that it be
shot down, he did not know whether it was a manned or unmanned object?
KIRBY: We were able to get some fighter aircraft up and around it before the order to shoot it down and the pilot's assessment was that this was not
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. On a different subject, after the State of the Union address, minutes after he finished delivering the State of the Union
address, President Biden encountered in the halls of the Capitol, Brittany Alkonis, the wife of your navy comrade, Ridge Alkonis, who as you know,
remains imprisoned in Japan. And the President told Mrs. Alkonis, we're going to get this done. I wonder if you can tell us if the Alkonis case
figured in the conversation that the President had with the Japanese Prime Minister when he visited here last month and if you can flesh out the
President's promise to Mrs. Alkonis. I know generally, you don't like to say a whole lot about these kinds of efforts, but what can you tell us
about what's being done on behalf of the Alkonis?
KIRBY: I would go back to what I said to you last time, James, I mean, the President is well aware of this case. And he's well aware of what the
family's going through. He's also well aware --
SOARES: If you're just joining us, let me bring you up to date with what we're hearing there from John Kirby. He has told us in the last few minutes
that the White House has announced that President Biden, Joe Biden has ordered the military to shoot down what it describes as a high-altitude
object, high-altitude object hovering over Alaska, this was on Friday afternoon. Now, what we know was that it's a size -- it was roughly the
size of a small car, flying over 40,000 feet. So very different from the balloon, of course, the U.S. shot down, if you remember, last Saturday,
that was hovering around 5 65,000 feet, and it was shot down over a sparsely populated area. Let's go back and listen to what else John Kirby
has to say.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Its U.S. counterpart was not returned from China, but on the diplomatic side of things, are there lines of communication between the
U.S. and China right now?
KIRBY: Well, certainly. Look, we have a -- we have an embassy in Beijing, diplomatic discussions routinely happen with Beijing. So, of course, the
diplomatic channels remain open. Sadly, the military ones do not appear to be open right now. Secretary Austin made a good faith effort to reach out
to his counterpart and was rebuffed. And that's unfortunate, particularly when times -- at times like this, you want to keep as open as you can the
lines of communication and the President is committed to that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then on Ukraine, president Zelenskyy was in the U.K. earlier this week, and he received a promise from the U.K. Government that
the U.K. would train Ukrainian pilots on NATO standard jet fighters. Can you tell me if you think that's a good idea? Is that something that the
U.S. is considering in terms of training, Ukrainian pilots on NATO aircraft as well?
KIRBY: Well, if they're going to get Western aircraft, then they're going to need to be trained on them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly what will happen, they'll get Western aircraft?
KIRBY: I - that would be up to the nations that may be willing to provide aircraft. I've said it before, probably tired of me hearing -- hear me say
it, but these are all sovereign decisions. And if a NATO nation, or even a non-NATO nation wants to provide capabilities like fighter aircraft to
Ukraine, that's certainly their decision to make. And one would assume that if you're going to introduce a system into a into a military, that they
have no experience with, that there's going to have to be some training that goes along with that.
We're doing it right now. Fort Sill, Oklahoma, we've got Ukrainian soldiers learning how to use a Patriot Battery.
And outside of Ukraine, we're helping train them on combined arms maneuver. So it's not unusual to do that if an advanced capability is provided, but
that's going to be a national decision.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Admiral. Thank you, Karina. Isn't there a concern that these objects, that the object and the balloon were both
discovered when they're already flying over U.S. airspace, or that they'd be detected before they enter the U.S.?
KIRBY: I think we're going to continue to learn a lot about how these things are, or can be detected. In a better way, you heard the NORTHCOM
commander talk about certain gaps that he felt he had in his domain awareness. So, from this incident last week, we will learn -- we'll
certainly learn about the capabilities of that surveillance asset. But we're also -- we also expect to learn more about our own processes in our
own systems for detection and tracking. I don't want to get into exactly how this one was detected, but I can assure you that we're going to
continue to try to improve our own knowledge base with respect to these systems.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John, you touched on that, on the object. Can you say anything about the proximity of it, and its flight path to the sensitive
oil fields near Prudhoe Bay? And was there any threat at all at any point to that equipment in that region of Alaska?
KIRBY: I'd refer you to the Pentagon for more detail about the track. Again, this just all happened within the last hour or so. I don't know what
the proximity was to oil fields. And your second question was?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, it's just about the sensitivity, you know, the oil fields, basically.
KIRBY: Well, again -- I mean, we just don't know what this object was. We don't -- it'd be difficult for me to point to a threat or a specific
concern such as oil fields when we don't really understand what this object was doing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then I just a couple more quick questions on the Russians, completely different topic, the Russians have said they're going
to cut oil output now. What is the U.S.'s response to that and will you reach out to OPEC to ask them to sort of compensate the difference so that
the price of oil doesn't escalate at a time when you're just starting to see inflation or --
KIRBY: Once again, Mr. Putin's willing to weaponize energy. And this move, if it proves to be true, which -- it doesn't come as a big surprise as a
reaction to the to the price gap. And it just shows you the lengths to which he's willing to use resources like energy as a -- again, as a weapon.
What the United States will do, have done, continue to do, is work with allies and partners to make sure we can better balance supply and demand
and try to meet that need. It's important. We still believe that Mr. Putin not be allowed to profiteer in an inappropriate way off of the oil he puts
on the market so that he can then fund his military in the field.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Thank you.
KIRBY: I don't have any diplomatic outreach to speak to today. We're going to continue to talk to allies and partners. Certainly, OPEC falls in that
category, but I don't have any specific conversations to apply.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Karina. Thank you, John. I have quick questions. China is claiming ownership of the balloon and China said that
they will take legal actions. Will you send the balloon back to China?
KIRBY: There are no plans to send the debris that we are recovering back to China. We're going to pull it up off the bottom of the wall -- off the
ocean and we're going to learn more about this capability.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Iran is building drone factory in Russia. And North Korea is receiving military drone from Russia, how do you do cooperation
between North Korea, Iran, and Russia?
KIRBY: I can't confirm those specific reports, Jay (ph). But I was up here not long ago talking about the burgeoning defense relationship between Iran
and Russia, which is not only not good for the people of Ukraine, it's not good for the people of Middle East because it'll flow both ways. And
Russian capabilities could very well end up in Iranian hands. And I would say the same about North Korea. We know -- I got up here and showed you
pictures, we know that they're providing ammunition to Russia, artillery ammunition specifically. And, again, that's not only not good for the
people of Ukraine, it's not good for the Korean peninsula and the region there that Russia and North Korea could be, again, developing a deeper
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, John. Just a few more on that. You said it was discovered last night, was it flying consistently at an altitude of roughly
40,000 feet that entire time?
KIRBY: Roughly. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were there any -- given that, were there any sightings that you're aware of by airman civilian aircraft operators?
KIRBY: No, sir. No, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And can you just nail it down -- can you tell us when the President gave you orders to shoot it?
KIRBY: Gave the order to shoot it down this morning. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Again, just to keep following up on the same topic. The speed with which you guys -- which the President apparently decided to
shoot it down having just discovered the first intelligence sort of last night, and by the morning, he's saying shoot it down --
SOARES: Well, let me bring you up to date with what you've been hearing. The U.S. has shot down a high-altitude object over Alaska, off the coast of
Alaska near the Canadian border. That order was given by the President, President Joe Biden. It was given this morning according to what you heard
there from John Kirby.
Now, the size of this object, he did not call it a balloon, he said object, was the size of a small car. And it was shot down over a sparsely populated
area off the water there off the coast of Alaska. Now, the debris field, as you said, as you heard him say, was much smaller. It was shot down, he
said, because it posed a reasonable threat to civilian planes. That's what we heard from John Kirby. Very different as well from what we heard
regarding the balloon last week, of course, that was taken down from -- by China -- by the U.S. That balloon had a surveillance asset and maneuver
capabilities, this one didn't seem to have that. We'll have much more on this on "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" after this very short break.