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U.S. Hits Russia with Sanctions, Expels Diplomats; Experts: Brazil Facing 'Unimaginable Loss of Lives'; India Shuts Down Monuments & Museums as Cases Spike; Closing Arguments in Chauvin Trial to Begin Monday; Biden Administration Sends Unofficial Delegation to Taiwan; Japan Prime Minister to Be First Foreign Leader to Visit Biden White House; China's Economy Grew at Record Pace in 1st Quarter; Buckingham Palace Prepares for Private Funeral. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired April 16, 2021 - 00:00   ET


JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live around the world. Hello. I'm John Vause.


And coming up this hour. Russia's day of reckoning. After a four-year- long free pass, U.S. sanctions target tech companies and individuals behind election interference, and cyber hacks. Russian diplomats, expelled.

Brazil's COVID crisis becomes a humanitarian catastrophe. Hospitals running dangerously short of sedatives and other crucial supplies. And a growing number of children among the thousands dying every day.

And with more than 200,000 new daily infections, India's two biggest cities shut down, and major vaccine producers delay global exports to try and meet local demand.

Joe Biden has been U.S. president now for just 85 days. And on Thursday, he announced what was a wholesale rejection of the previous administration's Russia policy, while at the same time, making it clear the biggest threat to the U.S. lies not in the caves and mountains of Afghanistan, but in cyberspace.

The president slapped sweeping new sanctions on Moscow, the toughest in years, aimed at individuals, tech companies, and parts of the Kremlin involved in election interference and other recent hacks on the U.S. government and major corporations.

Also Thursday, America's most senior diplomat, Antony Blinken, made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, the day after President Biden announced a full U.S. troop withdrawal, starting the first of next month.

China also on the agenda with a presidential delegation, meeting with Taiwan's leader in Taipei and U.S. climate envoy, John Kerry, meeting with his Chinese counterpart in Shanghai. The tough new Russia approach included the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats from Washington. And a warning from the U.S. president, if the cyber-hacks and the election interference do not end, there will be more punitive measures to come.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't allow a foreign power interference in our democratic process with impunity.


VAUSE: At the same time, Joe Biden wants to try and reduce tensions between Washington and Moscow and has offered to meet face to face with Vladimir Putin in the coming months. Details now from senior U.S. correspondent Alex Marquardt.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR U.S. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Biden administration rolled out what the president calls measured and proportionate punishment against Russia for, among other things, Russia's attempt to interfere in the 2020 presidential election and the historic hack against the U.S. government.

The massive Russian influence campaign in the 2020 election, led to 32 people and entities being sanctioned, including for the use of disinformation websites like these, spreading lies directed by Russia's main intelligence agencies. Russian efforts and operations were global. A network in Africa and companies in Pakistan.

There was a new tie revealed between the Trump campaign in 2016 and Russia. The U.S. Treasury Department targeting Russian Konstantin Kilimnik for giving Russian intelligence both polling data and campaign strategy in that race. It was given to him by 2016 Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, a longtime associate of Kilimnik's.

Manafort pushed his own conspiracy theories, promoting the idea that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election, an unfounded idea picked up by President Trump.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How come the FBI never got the server from the DNC? The server, they say, is held by a company whose primary ownership individual is from Ukraine.

MARQUARDT: For the first time, the U.S. also named the Russian intelligence agency behind the unprecedented cyberattack, known as the SolarWinds hack, uncovered late last year. A sophisticated campaign into at least 9 U.S. federal agencies and around 100 companies.

Cracking down on Russian intelligence, the Biden administration sanctioned six technology companies connected to that and announced it would kick out 10 Russian diplomats from the embassy in Washington, including known spies.

One issue where Russia was not punished is for the reported bounties that Russia put on the heads of American troops in Afghanistan. Reports that Biden used during the campaign to blast Trump.

BIDEN: As president, I will never, never, never stand silently in the face of intelligence reports that the Kremlin has put bounties on the heads of U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan.

MARQUARDT: The intelligence on that, Biden officials now say, isn't strong enough to demand action now. Instead, they'll respond through diplomats and the military.


(on camera): Biden says he had a phone call this week with President Putin that he called candid and respectful. Biden is clearly trying to carefully walk a line here, both punishing Russia for many of the things that they've done while also hoping that things don't escalate between the two countries.

The phrase that we heard from Biden, that we're hearing a lot from this White House, for the relationship with Russia, is stable and predictable.

Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: Timothy Frye is a professor of political science at Columbia University, and author of "Weak Strongman: The Limits of Power in Putin's Russia." And he joins us this hour from New York.

Professor, good to have you with us.


VAUSE: There is an executive order that President Biden wrote about Russians' activities, which was sent to Congress. And in that he said, the activities by Russia constitution an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States."

He went on to write, "I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat."

VAUSE: That wording seems to be significantly harsh in many ways, but it also broadens the scope of the sanctions authority, which they now have as -- and targeting, basically, any section of the Russian economy. The sovereign debt will be impact. The currency could weaken.

So what will be the everyday impact of these sanctions on, you know, life in Russia and those that are targeted with these sanctions?

FRYE: So these sanctions are carefully calibrated and send a message to the Kremlin. They're really targeting the primary market in Russian government debt.

But western companies and banks can still purchase Russian debt on the secondary markets. So the economic impact is not likely to be particularly strong.

What the sanctions do, though, is set the table, so that if relations continue to deteriorate, then the White House could levy sanctions on the secondary market, which would then have a much bigger impact on the Russian government by it (ph).

VAUSE: And that seems to be part of the goal here, which is to, I guess, deter bad behavior by the Russians, while at the same time, avoid escalating the tensions with Moscow. And it's a pretty fine line. The Russians have warned of a response. That could be just talk, but is this the goldilocks mix of sanctions? Will it get that job done?

FRYE: Well, this is about the Biden administration is hoping. It's really a two-pronged approach. They're levying sanctions in a way that is really calculated, and not very -- seen as very extreme by most analysts.

And at the same time, the Biden administration is reaching out to the Kremlin, proposing to engage in talks on -- on strategic stability and in the hopes of eventually having a summit. So the hope is that, between these two different steps, you could put the relationship on the most predictable and stable basis.

Now, it's hard to see that there's going to be great love between the Kremlin and the White House any time soon. So expectations are pretty temperate. But the hope is that the relationship could be less bad than it is today.

VAUSE: Less bad is good. More bad is worse, obviously. There was that conversation with Putin and Biden on Tuesday. Biden did propose that summit.

The Russian foreign ministry, though, tweeted Joe Biden expressed an interest in normalizing Russian ties, but the current administration's actions suggest the opposite. The U.S. is not ready to put up with the objective reality of a multipolar world."

So does that mean that that summit is going to happen? I mean, how do these two men actually sit down and talk after this?

FRYE: And it's pretty standard language from the Kremlin, and, in general, when summits are announced, they are announced after there's been a great deal of preparation between the two parties. And it's seen as a joint announcement.

So I think once those steps are taken, then you could see a summit. Because, you know, the countries do have an awful lot to talk about: arms control, the buildup of the Russian military on the border with Eastern Ukraine, and the nuclear agreement with Iran. And in addition to all the issues that were raised and the sanctions.

So the plate is pretty full, and there is a real need for talks. I think both sides realize that.

VAUSE: And if there is some kind of Russian reprisal, or response, what would that look like?

FRYE: Well, certainly, there are some diplomats from -- from the United States that are currently based in Moscow and will be sent back to the United States. There might be some sanctions on specific individuals. And I don't think there can also be moves around Ukraine, or in the seas around Ukraine, where the U.S. has floated the idea of bringing ships into the sea near Ukraine. But so that their response could also have more of a kind of military coercive element to it, than the U.S.'s sanctions.

VAUSE: And Biden has talked about these sanctions, and their actions were coming. He ordered an immediate review of Russian relations. I think one of the first things he did on being sworn into office, back in January.


So obviously, the Russians knew that this was coming. Still, would it be a shock, given the last four years, when Putin has got a pass on everything from Donald Trump?

FRYE: Yes, I think the sanctions are really designed in a way to make them be a strong departure from the past four years. And these are very carefully calibrated. They are long in preparation, and they're -- the way that they're done, with a great deal of transparency, one of the remarkable things about the sanctions is just the level of detail that the U.S. government is willing to provide about the Kremlin's actions in the cyber sphere.

And that's a great departure from the Trump era, in addition, the U.S. really made the point that the allies were on board with those sanctions in their announcement. Again, another departure from the -- from the Trump administration. So in that way, I think the sanctions are trying to draw a pretty clear line that -- between the current administration and the past administration.

VAUSE: OK. Timothy Frye, thank you for being with us.

FRYE: My pleasure, thank you.

VAUSE: The Johnson & Johnson vaccine could be out of use for at least a week until another meeting by advisers to the CDC to discuss safety and a potential link to deadly blood clots.

Right now, the J&J vaccine is on pause after six reported cases of severe clots. Experts say that pause, though, is a demonstration that safety issues are being taken seriously.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: So there were two reasons to do it. One out of an abundance of caution, to see what we're dealing with, and B, to make sure they alert physicians about what to do with it. Hopefully, we'll get a decision quite soon as to whether or not we can get back on track with this very effective vaccine.


VAUSE: Meantime, the head of Pfizer says COVID booster shots could be needed six months to a year after the initial vaccination. And here's vaccination distribution efforts around the world. The

rollouts are gaining momentum in North and South America, parts of Europe and Asia, as well as Australia.

As for how the world is faring in the fight against the virus, a lot of places are still seeing increased cases.

For example, Thailand reported the sharpest rise since the start of the pandemic. The death toll in France passed 100,000 on Thursday. State TV reports in Iran that the virus is killing one person every four minutes.

But the U.S., India, and Brazil are reporting the most COVID cases by far, according to Johns Hopkins University. France and Russia are also in the top five worldwide.

The situation especially concerning in Brazil, which can't seem to get this outbreak under control. More cases will undoubtedly mean more death. CNN's Shasta Darlington reports.


SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the sixth straight month in Rio de Janeiro, more people are dying than are being born as hospitals burst at the seams.

In at least 10 other Brazilian cities, the trend is the same, as a crisis plays out across the nation. A surge in coronavirus seems to be spiraling out of control, killing three people each minute in a record high last week.

Overwhelmed cemeteries resorting to late-night burials, just to keep up with demand. Still, experts warn the pandemic may only get worse.

A COVID P-1 variant, first discovered in Brazil, may be dangerously mutating, scientists say, becoming more resistant to vaccines as it spreads, unchecked, across the country. If Brazil doesn't contain the variant, it could lead to an "unimaginable loss of lives," writes a team of experts in a report published Wednesday, in the journal "Science."

"The federal response has been a dangerous combination of inaction and wrongdoing," they add, pointing to the government of President Jair Bolsonaro for its handling of the pandemic, as criticism mounts, worldwide.

CHRISTOS CHRISTOU, INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT, DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDER: I have to be very clear in this. The Brazilian authorities' negligence is costing lives.

DARLINGTON: Members of the medical NGO Medicine Sans Frontiers say Brazil's COVID-19 response has plunged the country into a humanitarian crisis that they warn is only likely to intensify.

But Brazil's far-right leader is bristling at international alarm, as he doubles down on opposing lockdown measures. JAIR BOLSONARO, BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I think I'm

the only world leader taking all this criticism. It would be easier to just follow the masses. That way, people don't accuse you of genocide, just because I think differently.

DARLINGTON: Bolsonaro has also lambasted a probe by the country's Senate into his handling of COVID-19 and continues deflecting criticism for a sputtering vaccine rollout.

So far, only about three percent of the population is fully vaccinated after political infighting and repeated delays.


Meanwhile, medical systems across the country begin to collapse as worrying trends emerge.

JEAN GORINCHTEYN, SAO PAULO HEALTH SECRETARY (through translator): In the first wave, we saw mainly older people, but this is not what we're seeing now. It is a disease that has shown itself to be more aggressive, particularly in young people.

DARLINGTON: A recent report out of Brazil says most ICU patients are 40 years old and younger, for the first time since the country's outbreak began. No one is safe, it seems, from the grip of a deadly pandemic, as Brazil's grueling battle with coronavirus rages on.

Shasta Darlington, CNN, Sao Paulo.


VAUSE: India is also seeing a massive surge in COVID infections. That steep spike covers just the past few days. Now, more than 14 million cases nationally, as of Thursday, which also saw 200,000 new infections. That's the highest single-day increase since the pandemic began. Hospitals are under pressure.


DR. ARVIND KUMAR, SIR GANGA RAM HOSPITAL: The numbers are rising, and it's anybody's guess where this number is going to stop. There are all kinds of activities still happening across the country, which are likely to further increase in these numbers, in the coming few days.


VAUSE: Monuments and museums across the country are now being closed to keep the virus from spreading. States have also ordered new lockdown measures, along with nighttime and weekend curfews.

CNN's Vedika Sud is live in New Delhi.

A bit like closing the barn door after the virus has bolted. There's also the issue of those ongoing religious festivals, which seem to be super-spreader events. VEDIKA SUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John. And the numbers are

just going over the 200,000 mark, as the doctor you just saw, put out in air spoke about.

It's really worrying, because there are more states in union territory of Delhi that are putting more restrictions in place. You know, Delhi, on Wednesday reported its highest ever increase in numbers in 24 hours, with over 17,000 new cases. And yesterday, it reported 16.6. So it's really an increase in numbers that's worrying the union territory of Delhi, along with the night curfew, that was imposed earlier.

Now, there will be weekend curfews in the union territory of Delhi. Along with this, let's just quickly talk about the northern state of Uttarakhand. Why is it always spoken about? Because of that massive large gathering. It's the biggest religious gathering around the world. And it's taking place in Haridwar, a city in Uttarakhand.

And ever since the beginning of this religious festival, called the Kumbh Mela festival, we believe 4,350 people, almost, have been infected by COVID-19.

So, even yesterday, now that the numbers are out, we can tell you over 2,200 people are infected, after taking, you know, that dip in the holy river.

So it's really worrying to see these people being infected in that place. And also, what's ironic at this point in time is that the very same state, Uttarakhand, has now imposed night curfew. It's also brought out some restrictions, but none of them really apply to the Kumbh Mela, which is taking place in one of their cities.

How ironical is that? Instead of actually suspending that entire festival, there actually are no new guidelines for the Kumbh Mela. Instead, there are guidelines for other cities and states, that will have perhaps fewer people at weddings. There will be night curfew imposed but nothing for Haridwar, really.

What they have are the same old guidelines where you have to test, send it to us, before you go to that location, along with random checking that would take place. So this is really worrying.

Along with this, there are elections on in four states and one union territory. And that ends only by month end. So you have massive campaigning taking place for politicians. The people, in fact, who should actually be at the forefront to say, Let's put an end to these rallies. The numbers are increasing across these states, across the country. Let's just end all these campaigns.

But the politicians really not leading from the front at this point in time, which is highly saddening for the country. Of course, the numbers are now over 200,000 on a given day -- John.

VAUSE: Yes. Vedika, thank you. Vedika Sud, live from us in New Delhi.

Still to come here on CNN NEWSROOM.


DEREK CHAUVIN, FORMER POLICE OFFICER: I will invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege today.


VAUSE: Former police officer, Derek Chauvin, not taking the stand in his murder trial. Preparations now underway for a potential protest when the verdict is handed down.



VAUSE: Hundreds of protesters gathering outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department in Minnesota for a fifth straight night, demanding justice for Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old killed during a traffic stop on Sunday. Many have defied a nighttime curfew.

But former officer charged in Wright's death has been released on bail, after making a brief court appearance on Thursday.

Well, police departments across Minneapolis and across the U.S. now preparing for potential unrest once the verdict in the murder trial, a former police officer, Derek Chauvin, is handed down. Closing arguments will begin on Monday.

CNN's Omar Jimenez has the very latest now from the courthouse.


JERRY BLACKWELL, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Your honor, the state of Minnesota rests.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Nelson, anything further?


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The stage is now set for the long-awaited closing arguments in the trial of Derek Chauvin, and the longer awaited jury deliberations. Notably, jurors never heard testimony from Derek Chauvin who, until Thursday --

CHAUVIN: No, he's staying put where we've got him.

JIMENEZ: -- was only heard through his comments, caught on body camera video presented.

CHAUVIN: Had to hold the guy down. He was going -- he was going crazy. Turn that off for a moment. He wouldn't go in the back of the squad.

JIMENEZ: He then confirmed jurors wouldn't hear testimony from him in this trial.

CHAUVIN: I will invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege today. JIMENEZ: Outside of Chauvin's decision, a lot of court centered on a

familiar face. The return of pulmonologist Dr. Martin Tobin, who prosecutors used as a rebuttal witness to refute that carbon monoxide could have played a role in George Floyd's death, pointing to a blood oxygen saturation report that showed George Floyd was at 98 percent when he died.

BLACKWELL: Does that tell us anything, whatsoever, about what the carbon monoxide content could have been at a maximum?

DR. MARTIN TOBIN, PULMONOLOGIST: Yes, it does. If the hemoglobin is saturated at 98 percent, it tells you all there was, for everything else, is two percent. And so the maximum amount of carbon monoxide would be 2 percent.

JIMENEZ: Tobin was among more than 40 witnesses that were called in this trial, from those steps away from George Floyd on May 25, 2020 --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. McMillian, do you need a minute?

CHARLES MCMILLIAN, WITNESS: I feel helpless (ph).

JIMENEZ: -- to law enforcement experts on the use of force that day --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was this a trained Minneapolis Police Department defensive tactics technique?


BARRY BRODD, DEFENSE USE-OF-FORCE EXPERT: I felt the Derek Chauvin was justified with acting with objective reasonableness.

JIMENEZ: -- and doctors on the cause of death.

DR. LINDSEY THOMAS, PROSECUTION WITNESS, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: There's no evidence to suggest he would've died that night, except for the interactions with law enforcement.

JIMENEZ: Now, a process almost a year in the making is just days away. A dozen jurors have a weekend to prepare for what will be one of the most significant decisions in Minneapolis history.

JUDGE PETER CAHILL, HENNEPIN COUNTY FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT: If I were you, I would plan for long and hope for short.

JIMENEZ (on camera): And we're now in the final preparations stages, both from a court standpoint, but also from a community standpoint, as additional fortifications have started to go up. Thursday, additional razor wire was put up outside all five of the Minneapolis Police precincts, out of an abundance of caution as we get ever closer to the moment of a verdict in a very tense Minneapolis area.

Omar Jimenez, CNN, Minneapolis.



VAUSE: Well, graphic body camera footage has been released from another fatal police shooting. This one was in Chicago, where 13-year- old Adam Toledo was shot by police last month. And a warning: the video is disturbing.

The officer can be heard shouting for the boy to stop and show his hands. According to police, less than a second passed from when Toledo is seen holding a handgun, and the officer fires a single shot, hitting him in the chest.

Investigators say a gun was recovered from the scene. Lawyers from Toledo's family dispute the fact that he was holding a gun.

Still to come, bouncing back, China's economy surges as it comes out of the COVID crisis. We'll look at what's fueling that economic revival. Also, Beijing warning the United States to take caution as President Biden encourages closer ties with Taiwan.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. A quick recap of our top story.

U.S. President Joe Biden announcing sweeping new sanctions on Russia, punishing Moscow for the massive SolarWinds cyberattack, interference in two presidential elections, and what the White House called severe human rights abuses in Crimea.

Mr. Biden says the sanctions are a proportionate response but added now is the time to lower tensions between Moscow and Washington.

Sanctions are just one of several dramatic foreign policy moves by the Biden administration. Right now, America's climate envoy is in Shanghai for high-level talks on global warming with his Chinese counterpart.

At the same time, an unofficial delegation is in Taiwan, sent by President Biden, and met with the president of the self-guided island. China is warning the U.S., though, to take caution.

CNN's David Culver has more.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two sets of American diplomats, one group to Shanghai on the Chinese mainland, the other, to the self-governed island of Taiwan. Both visiting the same country, China's government would say. For the United States, it's more complicated than that.

BONNIE GLASER, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: The U.S.- China relationship is quite fraught. But no issue is more dangerous than that of Taiwan, because it is the one issue that the two countries could go to war over.

CULVER: In Shanghai, Thursday, John Kerry, President Joe Biden's climate envoy, engaging with China on what Washington insists is a, quote, freestanding issue. The fate of our planet, not linked, the White House says, to the fate of Taiwan. That's where an unofficial delegation, including former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd, arrived Wednesday.

CHRISTOPHER DODD, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: I'm here today at the request of my longstanding friend, President Joe Biden, to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to this partnership.


CULVER: Thursday's meetings come just one month after high-level talks between Beijing and Washington broke down in Alaska. Observers fear that the U.S.-China relations are at an all-time low. That's partly over Taiwan, now facing increased Chinese pressure, militarily, economically, and diplomatically.

All designed by Beijing to nudge Taiwan and its people towards unification and to prevent independence.

TSAI ING-WEN, PRESIDENT OF TAIWAN (through translator): I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank the Biden administration for reiterating, on numerous occasions, the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

CULVER: Like much of U.S. Taiwan relations this trip is considered unofficial. It's been carefully staged to appear that way. Underneath, an unequivocal message of support.

DODD: This administration will help you expand your international space and support your investments in self-defense. The Biden administration will also seek further deepening about already robust economic ties.

CULVER: That help could make it harder to get Beijing to back Biden's climate agenda.

ZHAO LIJIAN, CHINESE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: China has already made stern representations to the U.S. side, over its sending of personnel to Taiwan.

CULVER: On climate, China is the world's largest producer of greenhouse gasses by a long way. The U.S. is second, making the two countries crucial partners in any effort aimed at reducing emissions around the world.

KEVIN RUDD, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA: The challenge for both John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, is to create this special climate change collaboration lane in the midst of a highway, which frankly, all the rest of the traffic is blocked, or engage in collisions.

CULVER: Whether he will be able to keep climate separate from sticking points like Taiwan remains to be seen.

David Culver, CNN, Shanghai. (END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: The U.S. president will meet with Japan's prime minister on Friday. Yoshihide Suga is the first foreign leader to be invited to the Biden White House.

Talks expected to focus mostly on China's increasingly aggressive military moves in the South China and East China Seas and the great risk of conflict in the Taiwan Strait.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins has details now from the White House.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: When the Japanese prime minister comes to the White House, this is going to be the first foreign leader that President Biden has actually met with in person face to face, because the COVID-19 pandemic has caused so many of those meetings that he typically would have had in person to be held virtually, on Zoom basically, where they are communicating with one another on camera screens.

But, instead, this will actually be in person. It will look a little bit different because of COVID, of course. You won't have near the same size of a delegation that a typical visit would.

But we are still expecting the rest of the visit to kind of go how you would see some of these visits happen, where the Prime Minister Suga is going to be meeting with the vice president, Kamala Harris, at her house at the Naval Observatory, before going to the West Wing for a slew of meetings. And of course, there is going to be, at the end of the day, that press conference, with the two leaders side by side, calling on reporters.

But as far as the content, of course, it is no mistake that Prime Minister Suga is one of the first world leaders invited to the White House. Because, of course, the White House also announced today the next one is going to be -- is the South Korean president, President Moon. That is explicitly to send a message to the Chinese that the White House wanted to not only reestablish and reinvigorate these ties with our allies, but they want to send a message to the Chinese, that there is a united front between South Korea, Japan, and the United States.

And so, it will look a little bit different this visit. You're not going to see this haggling over tariffs that you so often saw when President Trump was in office.

But the White House, during calls with reporters, has said that the point of this meeting, they've got a lot to talk about when it comes to the pandemic and North Korea. But really, the No. 1 topic that is going to be looming over all those meetings happening at the White House is China.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


VAUSE: Let's stay with this story a little more. Let's go to Tokyo. CNN's Blake Essig is live.

And Blake, the U.S. is looking to Tokyo now to take a much stronger stand on China, and making that stand very public. How far is the prime minister willing to go?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, that is the big question, John. And while we'll find out that answer tomorrow. One thing we do know is that China will be a big focus of the summit.

Now, this is the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders. And President Biden's first visit from a foreign leader since taking office in January. The summit between President Minister and the prime minister, Suga, on Friday is expected to cover a wide range of topics, including COVID-19. The climate crisis, North Korea, and perhaps, the biggest focus, as we mentioned earlier, China.

Now, President Biden plans to use the summit to send a clear message to China regarding its recent aggression in the East and South China Seas, in particular, towards Taiwan.

Just earlier this week, China sent 25 warplanes into Taiwan's air defense identification zone.


Now, from Japan's perspective, a senior government official told me that Japan has three main objectives for the summit. First, to figure out how it can support President Biden's approach towards multilateralism.

Second, to enhance the U.S.-Japan alliance in a free and open Indo- Pacific defined by rule of law.

And third, to establish a personal relationship between Biden and Suga. Again, this is the first time they'll have met. And both sides are hoping to build trust and confidence.

Now, John, just before Prime Minister Suga left last night, the prime minister said that he would like to build a relationship of trust with President Biden and further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance, linked by freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

Suga went on to say that he wants to show the world the leadership of Japan in the United States.

Now, because of COVID-19, a fraction of the normal delegation will be accompanying the prime minister to Washington for the summit. All of them have been vaccinated -- John.

VAUSE: OK, Blake, thank you. Blake Essig there, live for us in Tokyo.

We will take a short break. When we come back, we'll have details on Prince Philip, who will be laid to rest this weekend. What we can expect from that service and just who will be there. Those details in a moment.


VAUSE: China's economy appears to be making a strong recovery, with first quarter GDP surging more than 18 percent, a record compared to a year ago, when much of China was under a pandemic lockdown.

Live now to Beijing. Steven Jiang is with us, as always.

So Steven, there is the rub. The headline number looks good, but coming on such a low base, not so hot.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: That's right. I remember we were having this conversation almost exactly a year ago, when the economy suffered its first contraction since the death of Chairman Mao in 1976.

So it was that kind of unprecedented low base that made this surge, this number we heard today, so amazing, 18.3 percent. So it has to be put in that proper context. On a quarterly basis, compared to the last quarter of 2020, the economy actually grew only 0.6 percent.

So that actually shows a slowdown in terms of a growth rate, compared to the last quarter. But of course, at a press conference Friday morning, Chinese officials still painted a very rosy picture for the prospect of this economy, for the rest of the year. They highlighted many of the aspects they consider to be growing and improving, including international trade, as well as domestic consumption and especially online shopping, actually.

But economists and analysts, of course, are seeing a lot of challenges ahead before the government could deal with this economic recovery and growth. They already see a lot of concerns over rising debt levels, for example, especially at the local government level and other financial risks.


There's also signs of inflation. And even the consumer spending front, they say the recovery actually is lagging. Then, of course, there is also concern about a housing bubble here, not to mention these continued geopolitical tensions with some of the country's biggest trading partners, especially with the United States.

So there is still a lot of challenges and obstacles they have to deal with. But right now, of course, they are focusing on these positive aspects, and there are still some hopes of further recovery on the consumer spending front, especially with most of the travel restrictions and COVID measures being lifted domestically within the borders. For example, in the upcoming weeklong May Day holiday, there's already a lot of chatter. About 40 booked flights, trains, hotels, and resorts, with soaring prices.

So hopefully, that's going to help continue to push the economic recovery. So overall, John, these Chinese officials here are saying, this is a good picture, showing the world's second largest economy recovering, normalizing, and with relatively stable growth, projected for the rest of the year -- John.

VAUSE: I'm taking bets that they will hit that 6 percent growth target. Steven, thank you. Steven Jiang, live for us in Beijing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So he was a wonderful man, supported the queen, and she's lucky to have him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a controversial man, again, and said a few things out of turn, but he's been with the queen over 70 years, the longest consort there's never been, and God rest his soul.


VAUSE: The funeral for the Duke of Edinburgh set for Saturday with Buckingham Palace, reviewing few details about the service, except that it will reflect the duke's military affiliations, and his coffin will be placed on this modified Range Rover, which the prince helped design.

The private procession will travel from Windsor Castle to St. George's Chapel. Here's CNN's Max Foster, now reporting in from Windsor.


MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is very much the funeral that Prince Philip would have wanted. He was intimately involved in the plans. He wanted it to be relatively low-key. It's even more low-key than even he would have expected, considering the restrictions around the pandemic.

So there will be 30 members of the congregation. They are largely the royal family, but also representatives of Philip's family, flown over from Germany.

There will be a procession behind Land Rovers, designed by Prince Philip, carrying his coffin. And they will include members of the royal family, including Prince William and Prince Harry, who will be separated in the lineup there by their cousin, Peter Phillips, probably a way of distracting attention from many of the tensions that, of course, exist in the family of Buckingham Palace, saying, this is very much an event about Prince Philip, about the queen, celebrating Prince Philip and his long life. Not necessarily the family tensions.

The queen has signed off on all of these plants, so she feels, clearly, Saturday will be a true reflection of her husband's life.

Max Foster, CNN, Windsor, England.


VAUSE: CNN's special coverage of Prince Philip's funeral service is on Saturday. Please join us for that. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. I'll be back at the top of the

hour with more CNN NEWSROOM. In the meantime, WORLD SPORT starts after a short break.