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North Korea Launches Another Missile Over Japan; Trump Blames Both Sides Again. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired September 15, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:08] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: North Korea with another missile launch over Japan, just hours after threatening to sink Japan and turn the U.S. into ash. New reaction from Tokyo and Washington, ahead.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you look at, you know, really what's happened since Charlottesville, I said, you got some very bad people on the other side also, which is true.


BRIGGS: No, that was not last month. It was yesterday. The president reigniting the furor over blaming both sides of the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville. The question is: why? Why now?

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs. Christine Romans is ill this morning. Friday, September 15th. It is 4:00 in the East, 4:30 p.m. in Pyongyang.

And that's where we begin because North Korea launching a ballistic missile over Northern Japan for the second time in less than a month. And for the first time since conducting its sixth nuclear test two weeks ago, a provocation that triggered a new round of sanctions. And North's latest launch fired from the capital Pyongyang. Initial estimates indicate it was intermediate range ballistic missile that flew over the Northern Japan island of Hokkaido.

The Japanese on high alert. This missile test coming after North Korea threatened to, quote, sink Japan and reduced the U.S. mainland to ash and darkness.

Let's go live to Tokyo and bring in CNN's Phil Black for the very latest.

Good afternoon to you, Phil.

What do we know?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave, this was the second time in around two weeks that vast numbers of people in the country's North were woken by the sirens and text messages, warning them to take shelter because a missile was in the air and had been fired by North Korea. Authorities here say they identified pretty quickly that this missile did not pose a direct threat to Japanese territory but they were worried about falling debris.

They say they've essentially tracked the path and they think it was the same sort of intermediate range missile that was fired around the end of August, but in this case, it went even further. It traveled more than 2,200 miles, and that's significant because the authorities here say if it hadn't been fired east and had perhaps been fired south, it would have landed very close to the U.S. territory of Guam. That would have been an even greater provocation.

That's something no one in the region wants to see because they believe it raises the possibility of military conflict. It makes it perhaps even more likely.

Now, the Japanese government has released certain statements condemning this latest test. It wants the international community to band together on this to apply greater pressure on North Korea, and it will be taking that argument to the United Nations Security Council where it will be hoping that the U.N. Security Council will be able to apply the sort of pressure that Japan and the United States have been demanding for sometime, but that Russia and China have been unwilling to apply.

And from Japan's point of view, these statements, these calls for pressure, these calls for unity frustratingly that really is the limit of what the Japanese response can be at this time, Dave.

BRIGGS: Phil Black, live for us, 5:00 in Tokyo, thank you, sir.

South Korea responded to North Korea's missile test with a show of force of its own, launching two missiles capable of striking North Korea's Sunan Airport. That's the site of Pyongyang's latest test. One of the missiles failed and fell into the sea.

The Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaking by phone with his counterparts in South Korea and Japan during a flight from London to Washington. Tillerson releasing this statement, quote, these continued provocations only deepen North Korea's diplomatic and economic isolation. The United Nations Security Council's resolutions including the most recent represent the floor, not the ceiling of the actions we should take.

Tillerson also calling on Russia and China to voice their outrage and take direct action.

Let's go live to Washington and bring in CNN military analyst and retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton.

Good morning to you, Colonel.

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Good morning, Dave. Good to be with you.

BRIGGS: Good to have you.

All right. So, why Japan? LEIGHTON: Well, Japan is basically the country that North Korea looks

at because of its colonial past. Japan had all of Korea as a colony before World War II. That they looked at this as a way to go after the Japanese and say, not only are we thumbing our nose at you, but we're going to do what we can to damage you both politically and militarily.

So, the fact that they're flying over Japan and putting Japan on notice, that they cannot only reach Japan, but hit targets in Japan, that this is an ominous warning to the Japanese.

[04:05:01] And it also, of course, strikes at the heart of the U.S./Japanese security alliance.

BRIGGS: And as Phil Black pointed out, if it this was pointed in a different direction, it could hit U.S. territory in Guam. Are they sending that signal directly to President Trump and the United States?

LEIGHTON: Absolutely. So, all you have to do is move the compass from point of impact in the northern Pacific, just move it a few degrees south and you basically have the impact near Guam, as Phil pointed out. If that were to happen, that, of course, would be a direct provocation against the United States, and what they're saying here is we can hit you and we could very well do this at a time and place of our own choosing.

I also find it interesting, Dave, that they are using a launch facility near the international airport in Pyongyang. That is of interest and it is, of course, also an area that if I were a U.S. military planner, I would be looking at targeting that area.

BRIGGS: Rex Tillerson, we just read part of his statement saying this is the floor, not the ceiling of what we should do. What's the ceiling? And will we do that?

LEIGHTON: Well, I think the ceiling that is at least implied in Secretary Tillerson's comments is a military action and perhaps a very pronounced, very dramatic military action. I don't think we will do that immediately, but we're certainly putting North Korea on notice that it is a possibility. We're also putting China and Russia on notice this is the kind of thing they can expect if they don't support harder U.N. Security Council resolutions against North Korea deeper sanctions and some sanctions that actually have a meaningful impact on the North's economy.

BRIGGS: Well, to that point, Tillerson went on to talk about what you just mentioned there. And he said China supplies North Korea with most of its oil. Russia is the largest employer of North Korean force labor. China and Russia must indicate their intolerance of this reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own. Will they? And why have they refused to do so thus far?

LEIGHTON: Well, it's highly doubtful, Dave, that they're going to actually take actions that will be more congruent or commensurate with the types of actions that we want them to take. So, what I think they will do is they may say some things that are in line with what we would like but actual actions where they are going to prevent North Korean workers from sending money back to Pyongyang or provide them with a less of an energy supply, that is I don't think that's in the cards because both China and Russia want to have the North Korean regime exist, as it currently exists. They don't see that as much of problem.

They really don't particularly care about human rights violations and other areas of grave concern when you look at the North Korean regime. What they're interested in is what they think of as stability. Of course, I think they're playing with fire because if anything were to happen to the North Korean regime, it would be very difficult to contain the aftereffects of that. And whether they do it this way, you know, where they let things kind of play out, or whether you actually have an active push to do something against the North Korean regime. Either way, it could be a very dangerous scenario for East Asia.

BRIGGS: The president was recently asked about this, but at some point, does containment become the only workable U.S. strategy acknowledging the nuclear power and just focusing on containing it?

LEIGHTON: Well, containment requires a great deal of patience. And, you know, you look at the history of containment, and most people will look at the Soviet Union and say, the West employed a successful policy against the Soviet Union. Containment had its ups and downs. So, there were times when it appeared to be effective. There were other times when it didn't appear to be so.

But ultimately, it resulted in the collapse of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism in most of the world. North Korea, of course, being a big exception to that.

So, containment could work. The difference is that the North Koreans are far more resilient to outside economic and military pressures than the Soviets ever were. So, that -- the Soviets were very, very tough and tough to deal with them, the North Koreans are a very different breed in this sense, in the sense that they are a self-reliant country that has been working on that self-reliance for quite sometime. At least that's their mind set.

Of course, they are dependent on sources outside for energy and other material and the upper class in Korea, in North Korea, is clearly wanting luxury goods. So, you know, in that sense, there are dependencies, but it's a much harder nut to crack than the old Soviet Union was.

[04:10:03] BRIGGS: Boy, same story keeps going around and around. Colonel Cedric Leighton, up bright and early for us in the nation's capital, thank you, sir.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Dave. Absolutely.

BRIGGS: All right. The talk of that town once again is Charlottesville because President Trump could have just said his meeting with Senator Tim Scott about racial issues in this country was productive. Instead, he used the opportunity to dredge up perhaps the lowest moment of his presidency. More on that, next.


BRIGGS: Welcome back. Just when you thought the controversy had subsided, President Trump is renewing his explosive stance of the deadly violence in Charlottesville last month, once again blaming both sides.

His words coming just one day after meeting with South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, the only African-American Senate Republican who publicly condemned the president for his response.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny at the White House with the latest.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, President Trump signed a resolution on Thursday evening here at the White House condemning the violence in Charlottesville, of course, from the deadly attack last month of that white supremacist rally.

[04:15:08] But he also on Thursday reopened the old wounds, those comments that he made last month at Trump Tower, attempting to draw some type of a moral equivalence between the protesters and white supremacists.

He was flying on Air Force One when he said this:

TRUMP: I think especially in light of the advent of Antifa, if you look at what's going on there, you know, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also, and essentially that's what I said. You look at, you know, really what's happened since Charlottesville, a lot of people are saying, in fact, a lot of people have actually written, gee, Trump might have a point. I said you've got some very bad people on the other side also, which is true.

ZELENY: Now, the president was responding to a question about how his meeting went earlier in the week with Senator Tim Scott. He's the Republican from South Carolina, the only Republican African-American member of the Senate who came here to the White House on Wednesday to meet with the president to urge him to sort of change his view about Charlottesville.

As for Senator Scott, he told reporters on Capitol Hill he had a good conversation. He did not expect an immediate epiphany from this president. So, despite the fact the president signed this resolution on Thursday evening, those wounds the White House hoped had healed were reopened once again by the president's own words -- Christine and Dave.


BRIGGS: Hard to believe. Jeff Zeleny, thank you.

New details about how badly fractured the relationship has been between President Trump and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions. "The New York Times" reporting the president berated Sessions in the Oval Office and made calling him an idiot and telling him he should resign.

The confrontation took place after the president learned a special counsel had been appointed in the Russia investigation. Trump blamed that on Session's decision to recuse himself. A decision both parties thought was inevitable. Sessions reportedly sent a resignation letter to the White House, telling associate his meeting with the presidents was the most humiliating experience of his public live.

The president ended up rejecting Sessions' resignation after senior members of his administration argued against letting him go. And CNN has now learned the attorney general received a message of support from the president yesterday after "The Times" report.

President Trump threading a needle on a possible plan for DREAMers. He's trying to convince Democrats and moderates to allow hundreds of thousands of protected, young, undocumented immigrants to remain in the country, all while assuring his base he has not abandoned the Mexico border wall and his tough talk on immigration. President speaking to reporters five times Thursday, trying to frame the narrative after Democratic leaders announced an agreement to enshrine the protections of the DACA program into law and work out a plan for border security without a Mexico wall.

Trump tweeting: no deal was made, then spelling out what he wants.


TRUMP: We're working on a deal for DACA, but a lot has to do with the amount of security. We want heavy security at the border. We want surveillance. We want a lot of things at the border. And ultimately, we don't want them to obstruct with the wall.


BRIGGS: Republican leaders don't know what to make of all this. House Speaker Paul Ryan stressing no agreement was made with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying the senator looks forward to receiving the Trump administration's legislative proposal.

Nearly a week after hurricane Irma hit Florida, millions of residents are still waiting for power to come back on. And frustration certainly starting to get overbearing. More from Florida next on EARLY START.


BRIGGS: In Florida, at least 2 million customers still without power nearly a week after Hurricane Irma hit. Utility companies in the state hoping to get the entire east coast restored by Sunday night. Parts of the west coast, though, could take another week. South Florida still in dire straits as thousands of power lines and debris littering the streets, still not safe for frustrated residents to return to parts of the Keys.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm feeling frustrated. I'm feeling angry. I'm feeling -- I don't know, I'm feeling lost. It's hard. It is really hard. You know, just a whole bunch of feelings and I don't know how to solve anything and we need to start dealing with this.


BRIGGS: Long road for those folks. Parts of Central Florida hit hard, dealing with widespread outages. In Highlands County, about 72 percent of customers remain the dark, couple that with the heat index hitting triple digits and you have a recipe for misery.

CNN's Ryan Young has more from Sebring, Florida.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're in Sebring, Florida, and I can tell you this was hit hard. A little rain is starting to fall in the area and that is cooling things off but you had a heat index of above 100 degrees. This is one of the oldest populations in terms of counties, and so, they were worried about their seniors because of all the heat here. Imagine being trapped in a home with no air. We know that can have deadly effects.

So, they want ice, they want air and they want the water back. And a lot of people are running generators, so they need gas. The problem with that is, a lot of gas stations need power to be able to pump that gas.

So, what you've seen is thousands of these workers are coming, utility workers, who are starting to be able to provide the power back to those gas stations.

[04:25:04] That's helping to relieve some of the pressure here. The utility companies are doing most they can at this point to kind of troubleshoot throughout this country to get power back to some of those hardest hit areas. You better believe the hospitals and critical infrastructures are starting to get the power back, so this country can start getting relief from the heat.


BRIGGS: All right. A check on CNN money now.

Equifax's breach exposed the data of millions of America but the maker of the Hack software says Equifax could have prevented the leak. Apache Group discovered the flaw in March, two months before the hack and provided Equifax with a patch. Apache blames Equifax for not installing, quote, in a timely manner.

Equifax did not respond to Apache statement, but previously told CNN in working with all investigators, including the U.S. government, the FTC confirmed it's looking into the breach. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wants Equifax's execs to testify before the chamber. He also demands the company to take five steps to help consumers, including free credit monitoring and ID theft protection. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: If Equifax does not agree to these five things in one week's time, the CEO of the company and the entire board should step down.


BRIGGS: Equifax's CEO agreed to testify before a House panel in October. The hack exposed the financial data of 143 million Americans.

Ahead, on EARLY START, we're monitoring breaking news out of London. A, quote, security situation at a train station after what looks like a small explosion on a train during rush hour. Details just coming in. We'll have more on that next.

And with world leaders preparing to head to the United Stations General Assembly, it's very clear what the main focus will be: North Korea with another missile launch, once again, over Japan. We'll have reaction and analysis from Colonel Cedric Leighton, next.