WASHINGTON — The White House tried to swat away criticism Friday that the U.S. is getting nothing in exchange for agreeing to a historic face-to-face summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said North Korea has made promises to denuclearize, stop its nuclear and missile testing and allow joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises. But questions remained over exactly what North Korea means by "denuclearize" and what the U.S. might be risking with a highly publicized summit that will build up Kim's stature among world leaders.
"Let's not forget that the North Koreans did promise something," Sanders said, responding to a reporter's question about why Trump agreed to a meeting — unprecedented between leaders of the two nations — without preconditions.
She added: "We are not going to have this meeting take place until we see concrete actions that match the words and the rhetoric of North Korea."
Still, the White House indicated that planning for the meeting was fully on track.
"The deal with North Korea is very much in the making and will be, if completed, a very good one for the World. Time and place to be determined," Trump tweeted late Friday.
The previous night's announcement of the summit marked a dramatic turnaround after a year of escalating tensions and rude insults between the two leaders. A personal meeting would have been all but unthinkable when Trump was being dismissed as a "senile dotard" and the Korean "rocket man" was snapping off weapons tests in his quest for a nuclear arsenal that could threaten the U.S. mainland.
North Korea's capabilities are indeed close to posing a direct atomic threat to the U.S. And the wider world has grown fearful of a resumption of the Korean War that ended in 1953 without a peace treaty.
The prospect of the first U.S.-North Korea summit has allayed those fears somewhat. The European Union, Russia and China — whose leader spoke by phone with Trump on Friday — have all welcomed the move.
North Korea's government has yet to formally comment on its invitation to Trump. South Korea said the president agreed to meet Kim by May, but Sanders said Friday that no time and place had been set.
The "promises" on denuclearization and desisting from weapons tests were relayed to Trump by South Korean officials who had met with Kim on Monday and brought his summit invitation to the White House. Trump discussed the offer with top aides on Thursday. Some expressed their reservations but ultimately supported the president's decision to accept it, according to U.S. officials who were briefed on the talks and requested anonymity to discuss them.
Still, some lawmakers and foreign policy experts voiced skepticism about the wisdom of agreeing to a summit without preparations by lower-level officials, particularly given the lack of trust between the two sides. North Korea is also holding three American citizens for what Washington views as political reasons.
"A presidential visit is really the highest coin in the realm in diplomacy circles," said Bruce Klingner, a Korea expert at the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation, adding that Trump "seemed to spend it without getting anything in return, not even the release of the three U.S. captives."
Some say Trump could be setting himself up for failure amid doubts over whether Kim has any intention to relinquish a formidable atomic arsenal that he has made central to his personal stature and North Korea's standing in the world.
Evans Revere, a former senior State Department official experienced in negotiating with North Korea, warned there is a disconnect between how the North and the U.S. describes "denuclearization" of the divided Korean Peninsula. For the U.S. it refers to North Korea giving up its nukes; for North Korea it also means removing the threat of American forces in South Korea and the nuclear deterrent with which the U.S. protects its allies in the region.
"The fundamental definition of denuclearization is quite different between Washington and Pyongyang," Revere said, noting that as recently as Jan. 1, Kim had vigorously reaffirmed the importance of nukes for North Korea's security. He said that misunderstandings at a summit could lead to "recrimination and anger" and even military action if Trump were embarrassed by failure.
"There is good reason to talk, but only if we are talking about something that is worth doing and that could be reasonably verified," said former Defense Secretary William Perry, who dealt with North Korea during President Bill Clinton's administration. "Otherwise we are setting ourselves up for a major diplomatic failure."
The White House maintains that Kim has been compelled to reach out for presidential-level talks because of Trump's policy of "maximum pressure."
"North Korea's desire to meet to discuss denuclearization — while suspending all ballistic missile and nuclear testing — is evidence that President Trump's strategy to isolate the Kim regime is working," Vice President Mike Pence, who has visited the region, said Friday in a written statement.
SIOUX CITY | When John Byrnes began an internship with Sioux City's Parks and Recreation Department in May 2017, he wanted to test whether he was interested in a public-sector career.
Three months later, he was hired in a full-time role, helping the parks department launch the brand-new Cone Park.
"I got here, ended up loving the job I was in, and it was just a perfect fit for me," he said. "Now it's grown to where I can see myself being here for the foreseeable future."
Byrnes, who's originally from Omaha, had graduated from the University of Northern Iowa last spring with a degree in leisure, youth and human services.
"My major is kind of broad, and I didn't really know -- government, nonprofit, commercial -- I didn't really know what sector to go into," he said. "The internship was almost that feeling out, like 'I wonder if this is something that I'll enjoy?'"
Over the summer, he completed work on parks events and youth recreational programs. Then Byrnes was hired to work with Cone Park operations in the winter and other programming during the summer.
Byrnes is among a handful of interns who have worked with the city over the past few years, a number the city is looking to increase through more focused efforts. The city plans to bolster its internship offerings this year by standardizing its program guidelines and publicizing its offerings on the web and with local colleges. The city is specifying more than $30,000 in its upcoming budget to help cash-strapped departments hire paid interns.
In addition to providing meaningful work to help students advance their career goals, city staff say they also hope they might snag more future employees like Byrnes.
"Some of it's totally selfish," City Manager Bob Padmore said. "If we can get somebody in as an intern who could turn into an engineer or a budget analyst or a police crime analyst, we get them into the city, get them comfortable with working here, and it's easier to keep them."
In previous years, Padmore said, departments have hired interns using money that's available in their respective budgets. He described the process as "piecemeal," and scattered, which prompted the city last fall to launch a push to formalize the process.
City human resources director Janelle Bertrand, who worked on the program with Padmore, said city departments are now coordinating all internships through her department. The city will post vacancies and positions on the city's website, as well as keep in touch with local colleges.
"I want managers to think, are there internship possibilities that we could have, we just haven’t taken the time to think about them?" Bertrand said. "And then we contact schools, colleges, and say hey, we’ve got a couple opportunities in the area of engineering or inspections, or whatever that might be, to get the word out."
As in the past, the city will offer both paid and unpaid internships. Paid internships will be funded from one of two sources: individual departments' budgets, or a new pot of funding specified for interns that will be distributed through the city manager's office.
To receive the city manager's funding, city departments will apply, and a panel will review the internships and select those it wishes to award the money. Padmore said the $32,000 currently budgeted will fund approximately four interns, although price ranges differ by position.
Padmore had previously proposed about half that amount for the upcoming fiscal year, but the City Council voted to double the money during budget hearings this winter. The new funding will be available July 1.
Bertrand said the internship process itself will also be standardized under a new policy. Interns will identify goals and attend regular meetings to discuss progress, as well as have an exit interview with the Human Resources office to discuss the internship and evaluate the city as an employer.
Padmore said the interns won't be simply filing paperwork or making coffee, but that each internship will provide relevant work that helps the interns move closer to their career goals.
He said he believes future internships could involve creative aspects of city government, such as social media, and he believes the program will open interns' eyes to the variety of jobs available in local government.
"I think they'll find through an internship program that government's a lot more than what everybody just assumes it is -- the boring stuff," he said.
WASHINGTON | Time to set your clocks and watches one hour ahead.
And maybe save some time to grouse about losing an hour's sleep Saturday night.
The shift from standard to daylight saving time officially comes at 2 a.m. Sunday across much of the country. Daylight will last longer into the evening, but take an hour longer to emerge in the morning.
No time change is observed in Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas. Florida could eventually join that list if GOP Gov. Rick Scott signs the "Sunshine Protection Act" passed this week and Congress goes along.
It's a good time to consider installing fresh smoke detector batteries.
Standard time returns Nov. 4.