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American Morning

North Korea Launches Seventh Missile Test; Black Swimmers

Aired July 05, 2006 - 08:33   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: North Korea launches a seventh missile test this morning, or whether it's a test or not is perhaps subject of interpretation. China is out with a fairly tame response, calling for no more actions that will add to tension in Asia.
CNN's Anjalie Rao live now from our Hong Kong headquarters.

Anjalie, tell us, first of all, about this Chinese reaction. As we say, it's a bit tame. It's calling on everybody to keep tensions low. Why haven't they been more forceful?

ANJALIE RAO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, I mean as you say, it is tame if you look at it in one sense, but on the other hand, China really has to be incredibly careful about what it says here. China is the closest thing that North Korea has to a friend in this region. And stability in North Korea is of the utmost importance to China as well. The last thing that it wants is destabilization, which could then prompt a massive influx of refugees from across the border in North Korea, which as we know is mired in poverty.

Having said all of that, though, with the reactions coming out of China, it doesn't seem to make much of an impression on North Korea, because they're still saying that it's their sovereign right to carry out these tests, even though it signed up to a self-imposed moratorium on doing so in the '90s, and that sovereign right is something that even some Chinese people agree with.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I think that being a country, they have a right to.


RAO: Well, I mean, it really is a stab in the back for Beijing, North Korea carrying out this missile test. Hu Jintao, the leader of China, was saying that the last thing that he wants is for any sort of action like this to be carried out on the Korean peninsula. But as I say, you know, he must be very careful of the language, because it is in China's best interest to keep North Korea on its side -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: I guess it's no surprise, though, that the strongest reaction would come from Japan.

RAO: Yes, absolutely right. And that reaction was swift and also strong. They have been very vocal about it. Not least because of their proximity to North Korea, but also the distances that these missiles that North Korea has been testing can travel. Japan now has its troops on standby in case of any escalation of action on the peninsula, Miles. And the Japanese people also, Atika was telling us earlier, are, understandably perhaps, incredibly concerned and also a bit confused about what all of this means and where the situation could lead from here on.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I don't know what North Korea was trying to prove doing this. On the contrary, they showed the world how limited their technology is.

Their own people are suffering from starvation, but they spend money on their own military budget instead. Even though the world is providing aid, it's only being delivered to the privileged classes. We are not able to trust this country. I think this event shows that to the world.


RAO: A U.N. Security Council emergency meeting, Miles, is to be held in about an hour and a half from now. It was Japan, in fact, who called that meeting. They would have liked it to be called a little bit sooner, but as I say, it is going to be held in about an hour and a half from now. We'll see what happens there, but as well we know, so for there have been major divisions in what the six parties which have been involved in these talks on North Korea's nuclear program have been able to achieve. They just don't seem to see eye to eye on this.

O'BRIEN: And we're still scratching our head trying to understand what Kim Jong-Il and that regime is doing. What is the strategy? Why these missiles? Why now?

RAO: It's a tough one, Miles. You know, everybody seems to have a different opinion on this, but the only consensus that I can glean from it, is that, you know, it's a cry for attention. It's a way to say, look, we still want recognition. We want you to remember that we're here. And also I think it's worth noting that every time the world seems to be paying more attention to Iran over its nuclear ambitions, North Korea says or does something, not normally anything as strident as this, but they'll put out a statement on their state- owned media, saying something along the lines of, you know, North Korea will unleash fury on anybody who dares to question our sovereignty.

But you know, now that they have carried out this unequivocal action, it's a tough one. They're in a very, very dodgy position here, because the parties who're involved in all the talks could say, well now, look, enough Mr. Nice guy. We're not going to talk anymore. This might be the time for action, miles.

O'BRIEN: Angelie Rao in Hong Kong, thank you very much -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Still to come, the fight for Ramadi, an insurgent in Iraq. We'll look at why U.S. forces think they found a way to turn the tide. How about making a park? Yes, a big park. maybe it'll work.

O'BRIEN: And later, discovery flies. It was a beautiful launch, but it's make or break for the space shuttle program. We'll tell you what lies ahead in space, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


COSTELLO: The U.S. military in Iraq is trying to clean house in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi. The city, 70 miles west of Baghdad, has been a deadly place for American troops. Now military leaders have a plan to gain control of that troubled city.

Joining us from Ramadi, Army Colonel Sean MacFarland, commander of the U.S. forces there. Thanks, Colonel, for joining us this morning.

COL. SEAN MACFARLAND, CMDR., 1ST BRIGADE COMBAT TEAM: You're welcome. Good morning, Carol. Glad to be with you.

COSTELLO: We're glad to have you. Ramadi is such a dangerous place. One hundred and 60 Americans have died there. Tell me what life is like day-to-day.

MACFARLAND: Well, day-to-day, for the American forces, every day is a day in contact with the enemy. But it's in a good way, because we're not reacting to the enemy; the enemy is reacting to us. We're pushing in to former insurgent strongholds and establishing a basis there with that, together with our Iraqi counterparts, we're able to launch patrols and move out into areas that have been previously denied to the Iraqi security forces.

COSTELLO: Before we get into that, Colonel, I want to go over an article in the "New York Times" that described, in more detail, what life was like for American troops in Ramadi.

And I'm going to read a quote from the article. "The American marines live eight to a room, rarely shower for lack of running water, and defecate in bags that are taken outside and burned. The threat of snipers is ever present. The marines start running the moment they step outside. Daytime temperatures hover around 120 degrees. Most foot patrols have been canceled because of the risk of heat stroke."

How do you keep your sanity?

MACFARLAND: Well, the environment is challenging, there's no doubt. And...

COSTELLO: That's more than challenging.

MACFARLAND: Well, yes. But, you know, the young soldiers and marines in Ramadi are superbly conditioned young men and women, and they're prepared for what they're being required to endure. And it's amazing the great morale that they have. Every day that they take outside of the wire with them or as they move about the daily duties inside the wire, they don't let it get them down or discourage them. They're a very resilient group, and it's just a privilege to be associated with them.

COSTELLO: And they have come up with -- well, actually, the commanders, yourself included -- have come up with these creative ways to try to control the insurgency in Ramadi. Because really, you're protecting the government center there, which is constantly attacked by insurgents, sometimes 100 at a time. And there's this new idea that we've heard about that you're going to kind of bulldoze and blow up everything around the government center and kind of make a park or a green zone. Tell us how that's going to work.

MACFARLAND: Well, I don't like to use the term green zone, because that tends to be a loaded term, based on the green zone in Baghdad. But we are looking at options for the area around the government center. Certainly, taking down the buildings around it is part of that.

And then, we're looking for ways to make lemonade out of lemons. The buildings are rubbled, essentially, as they now stand, if they stand at all. And once we clear that area out, we'll have a nice open area that will give us some standoff against enemy snipers. But it will also afford us the opportunity to rejuvenate the center of the city. And we're looking at -- one of the options on the table is a park. And I like that option. A little bit of green space in the center of the city, I think, would be good for everybody's morale.

COSTELLO: It would be good for morale and it also will give -- there are less hiding places for insurgents, I would suppose. The problem that I see, though, is if you're running the city from a government center and it's separated from the rest of the population -- because it's still dangerous within the city of Ramadi -- how do you marry that?

MACFARLAND: Well, we've been able to get the government ministers in and out of the government center pretty successfully. The atmospherics in the city are improving somewhat as we improve security. And more and more of the government workers are coming back to work now. So, that's been helpful.

And success begets success. As we improve the security in other parts of Ramadi and around the government center, we'll see a sense of normalcy return. Just today, as I was driving down the city, the main avenue down through the middle of the city back from the hospital to the government center, I saw a lot of the sukes (ph) -- what they call the markets here -- open and flourishing along the side streets. So that's a very positive sign, and it is not one that's been seen very often in this city in the recent past.

COSTELLO: Well, our best to you and stay safe. Colonel Sean MacFarland, commander of the Army's First Brigade combat team in Ramadi. Thanks for joining us today.

O'BRIEN: Up next up on the program...

MACFARLAND: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Sorry about that. Up next on the program, Andy is "Minding Your Business" -- Andy?

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" COLUMNIST": Miles, some business news. No more sloppy joes and cigarettes at the workplace. Today, it's all about yoga and yogurt, courtesy of your boss. How about that?


COSTELLO: Your boss leading the yoga class?

O'BRIEN: We'll see about that one.

Also ahead in the program, are you worried about how your kids are going to turn out, Andy? I know you are, yes.

SERWER: Yes, actually.

O'BRIEN: With a parent like that, should be worried -- no, anyway. Parents...

COSTELLO: Oh, wow!

O'BRIEN: The truth is, parents, you might have less influence than you think. As it turns out, the kids might be raising the kids. A look at the surprising power of siblings.

COSTELLO: You are in such trouble.

O'BRIEN: I am.

COSTELLO: OK, we have to get serious now. And saving lives while battling a racist myth. The push to make sure African-American children are safe in the water. That's next on this AMERICAN MORNING.


COSTELLO: Stay out of the water. African-Americans have heard that message going back generations. The result is a dramatic racial gap in swimming ability. And a disproportionate number of blacks drowning. There is now a national push to get more black children to swim. It's a matter of life and death.


COSTELLO (voice-over): Joseph Johnson was a funny, vibrant 14- year-old. On a hot day last summer, he and his friends built a raft to play in the Bronx River. It wasn't long before he fell off, struggling and disappeared. It took 20 hours to find his body. His parents say he never had a chance. Even though his father was a lifeguard, he had never learned to swim.

HANNAH JOHNSON, JOSEPH'S MOTHER: My child didn't know how to swim and it just -- the whole life changed. Your whole life changes. A part of you is missing, and you'll never be the same.

COSTELLO (on camera): According to federal statistics, nine people drowned in the United States every day, in places like this, where Joseph drowned. Forty percent of them are African-American. It's prompted organizations like the Red Cross to push for a national effort to teach black children to swim.

JULIE GILCHRIST, CDC, DIR. OF SWIMMING SAFETY: Statistically African-Americans in the 5 to 19-year-old age group have drowning rates that are more than two times higher than white or Caucasian children. And when you narrow that to the 10 to 14 age group, it's even higher, at four to five times the rate of Caucasian children.

COSTELLO: The obstacles for African-Americans date back generations. Maritza Correia, the first black women to make the U.S. Olympic team, said she trains in Georgia, just miles from pools that used to be off limits to blacks.

MARITZA CORREIA, 2004 OLYMPIC SILVER MEDALIST: Back then, they were segregated and they weren't allowed to even get in the pool.

COSTELLO: And discrimination bred racist myths across the sports spectrum. Al Campanis, the former general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers once infamously claimed...

AL CAMPANIS, FMR. GM, L.A. DODGERS: They may not have some of the necessities to be -- let's say, a field manager or perhaps a general manager. Why are black men or black people not good swimmers? Because they don't have the buoyancy.

COSTELLO: Correia says racist attitudes helped create generations of non-swimmers, and modern barriers have made things worse.

CORREIA: I just don't think that they have the facilities to learn how to swim. You know, their parents are working all the time. So they don't have the time to take them to a pool if there is one available. And, you know, it's also very expensive. It's a very expensive sport.

COSTELLO: Howard University is trying to reverse that trend by requiring students in the arts and sciences to learn to swim in order to graduate.

DWIGHT THATCHER, HOWARD UNIV. SWIM COACH: Howard University always wanted to be one of the elite universities. And so if we think back about slavery, and if that was not part of the teaching, to get to move us as a black race past that, somebody at Howard University had the thought that this is a valuable tool for us to learn.

COSTELLO: Swimming pools around the country like the swim club Asphalt Green in New York are offering free lessons.

CAROL TWEEDY, EXEC. DIR. ASPHALT GREEN: Often a child will come to us, they're already very fearful. They've been told, don't go near it, don't go near it. So if we can get a kid to sit on the edge of the pool and dangle the feet in the water, that's the beginning of success.

COSTELLO: Correia says she hopes that's a lesson that's repeated over and over.

CORREIA: Letting more African-American kids know that we can swim. You know, there is no myth about it.


COSTELLO: And you know, it's interesting, when you talk to parents, they'll say things like, you know, I taught my child to fear the water. My child knew he couldn't swim, so we never suspected that my child would go near the water. But you know what, a kid turns 14, they kind of follow what the friends are doing, and go near the water.

O'BRIEN: Well, if you teach them really to fear the water, that's just precisely the wrong message, isn't it?

COSTELLO: It is the message. Learn to swim. Find some way, somewhere to teach your kid to swim.

O'BRIEN: We're 98 percent water. So we're all two percent from drowning, right, pretty much?



COSTELLO: In a moment, top stories, including the developing story at North Korea. A seventh missile launched this morning. How is the Pentagon reacting to it? That's next on AMERICAN MORNING.