HANOI, Vietnam — The U.S. and North Korea offered contradictory accounts Thursday of why the summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un broke down, though both pointed to punishing American sanctions as a sticking point in the high-stakes nuclear negotiation.
President Trump, who returned to the White House on Thursday night, said before leaving Hanoi that the talks collapsed because North Korea's leader insisted that all the sanctions the U.S. has imposed on Pyongyang be lifted without the North firmly committing to eliminate its nuclear arsenal.
But North Korea challenged that account, insisting it had asked only for partial sanctions relief in exchange for shutting down its main nuclear complex. Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho commented on the talks during an abruptly scheduled middle-of-the-night news conference after Trump was in the air.
Ri said the North was also ready to offer in writing a permanent halt of the country's nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests and Washington had wasted an opportunity that "may not come again." He said the North's position won't change even if the United States offers to resume another round of dialogue.
Later, a senior U.S. official involved in the negotiations offered some clarification, saying the North wanted all sanctions, except for those involving weapons sales and transfers, to be lifted in exchange for the dismantlement of parts of the Yongbyon nuclear site. The official was not authorized to discuss the negotiations publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Trump, the official said, challenged the North Koreans to offer more or "go all in," but Kim would not agree.
Trump made no mention of the disagreement as he addressed U.S. troops during a stopover at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, though White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said he was aware of Ri's comments.
Instead, Trump focused on U.S. military might and offered a broad warning to U.S. enemies.
"America does not seek conflict, but if we are forced to defend ourselves we will fight and we will win in an overwhelming fashion," he declared.
Earlier on Thursday in Hanoi, Trump had told reporters the North had demanded a full removal of sanctions in exchange for shutting the Yongbyon nuclear facility. Trump said that there had been a proposed agreement "ready to be signed." However, he said after the summit was cut short, "Sometimes you have to walk."
Meanwhile, Trump said Thursday he takes the North Korean leader "at his word" that Kim was unaware of the alleged mistreatment of an American college student who died after being imprisoned there.
Kim "tells me he didn't know about it, and I will take him at his word," Trump said in Vietnam.
The president's comments about the Otto Warmbier case called to mind other times when he chose to believe autocrats over his own intelligence agencies, including siding with the Saudi royal family regarding the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and supporting Russia's Vladimir Putin's denials that he interfered with the 2016 election.
The demise of the talks came after Trump and Kim had appeared ready to inch toward normalizing relations between their still technically warring nations.
The American leader had dampened expectations that the negotiations would yield an agreement by North Korea to take concrete steps toward ending a nuclear program that Pyongyang likely sees as its strongest security guarantee. However, Kim, when asked whether he was ready to denuclearize, had said, "If I'm not willing to do that I won't be here right now."
But hours after both nations had seemed hopeful of a deal of some kind, the two leaders' motorcades roared away from the downtown Hanoi summit site within minutes of each other, lunch canceled and signing ceremony scuttled. The president's closing news conference was hurriedly moved up, and he departed for Washington more than two hours ahead of schedule.
The breakdown denied Trump a much-needed triumph amid growing political turmoil back home and the path forward now appears uncertain. Trump insisted his relations with Kim remain warm, but he did not commit to having a third summit with the North Korean leader, saying a possible next meeting "may not be for a long time."
Ri's comments reflected the North Koreans' disappointment, though there was a notable absence of bluster or threats by either side.
Both Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said significant progress had been made in Hanoi, but the two sides appeared to be galaxies apart on an agreement that would live up to stated American goals.
"Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn't do that," Trump told reporters.
Kim, he said, appeared willing to close his country's main nuclear facility, the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, if the sanctions were lifted. But that would leave him with missiles, warheads and weapon systems, Pompeo said. There are also suspected hidden nuclear fuel production sites around the country.
"We couldn't quite get there today," Pompeo said, minimizing what seemed to be a chasm between the two sides.
Even local employees without traditional office jobs are making the most of file-sharing technology.
Coconino County Public Works has been using a new digital program called Lucity since April 2018 to streamline local road maintenance projects and is already noticing a positive difference.
Though Lucity’s evaluation and selection date back to 2016, this year will be the first full year of its use, allowing public works to enact needed improvements, such as expanded employee training.
Lucity is a customizable, map-based database allowing employees of all levels to view, update and share information from any device connected to the internet. The program was budgeted into the county’s 10-year plan with a cost of $30,000 per year paid to Lucity.
Carl Fuller, Road Maintenance division manager, said this is very affordable for a program of such capability and is comparable to the price paid for the previous program, Cartegraph Navigator.
He said the switch to a new program was necessary because Cartegraph was outdated and no longer supported by the county’s computers.
Road maintenance is the only division currently using Lucity; however, engineering is transferring data into it. It also has potential for other departments like utilities, Fuller said.
Public works representatives praised the new program in a presentation to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday afternoon.
“We needed to be using technology to develop a 21st century road maintenance operation,” Public Works Director Lucinda Andreani told the supervisors. “What’s key to this is that we’re getting information into the hands of people who do the work every day.”
Andreani said Lucity also allows public works to be held more accountable to the promises made to the public in Proposition 403 through improved recordkeeping.
Prop 403, which passed in 2014, established a 3/10-cent sales tax to help fund road maintenance projects throughout the county for 20 years.
Lucity users are provided a customizable dashboard that allows them to quickly generate the documents and records they use most, as well as view guidelines for their projects while they complete them.
Harry Lorick, owner of LA Consulting, worked with the county to implement Lucity. He said during the presentation that Lucity is well established and used by more than 200 agencies throughout the country to manage large amounts of information in a more user-friendly way.
The county has no shortage of such data. In fact, public works oversees nearly 1,000 miles of roads, 11,000 signs, 3,000 culverts and 200 cattle guards, among other such assets. It also receives an average of four to seven maintenance requests from the public each day.
Marc Della Rocca, community relations manager, said during the presentation that the division receives five to 10 times as many reports during serious weather events like snowstorms.
With the large number of these items and reports occurring continually, Lucity is also helping to create a database of practical information for future projects, such as best practices, costs and timelines. This will allow the four county maintenance districts to be compared only to themselves for projections, instead of projects occurring in dissimilar districts.
This is a gradual transition, though.
“We’re just getting into it; this is a system that improves each year. As we put into it, it’s going to give us better information,” Fuller said.
The presentation emphasized that sharing local knowledge and experiences is working to create a better functioning public service by increasing collaboration, coordination and transparency of the road maintenance division.
“The key reason this thing is working is because it’s about the people, not about the software. It’s not about Lucity, it’s about people using business processes that just happen to be in Lucity. And the reason it’s working is because the people make it work,” Lorick said.
A Coconino County Superior Court judge sentenced former Flagstaff teacher Ted Komada to 25 years in prison for committing sexual conduct with a minor and attempted child molestation.
The 38-year-old former teacher did not have much to say in the courtroom on Thursday, but Judge Cathleen Brown Nichols said sealed court documents contained a statement that showed Komada’s remorse.
Nichols later told Komada how his actions could “fracture” victims.
“You only get one shot at a childhood,” Nichols said. “Your conduct has affected these children for the rest of their lives.”
Komada admitted he committed the sex crimes last month after he had been held in the Coconino County Detention Facility for more than a year.
In 2016, Komada was chosen by Flagstaff Unified School District as teacher of the year for his work at Killip Elementary School. Court documents suggests that the sex crimes occurred with children under the age of 15 and happened off of school property. Evidence in the case indicated Komada’s acts happened on multiple occasions. Nichols said the victims in this case have already begun counseling.
When Nichols spoke to Komada in the courtroom, she informed him that through her job she sees people every day in the criminal court who were damaged by sexual crimes, but she held out hope for the children.
“Children are resilient,” Nichols said. “Children amaze us all the time… If they get the necessary support from family and counseling, they can go on and lead wonderful lives to do the things they want to do in their lives.”
Deputy County Attorney Michael Tunink negotiated the plea agreement with Komada and his lawyer, but Coconino County Attorney Bill Ring, who sat in the courtroom during the hearing, spoke on behalf of his office.
“Where children are victims we won’t ever stop, ever, before justice is done,” Ring said. “And we respect the victims’ desire for privacy and that we allow them the space to thrive once more."
David Bednar, Komada's lawyer, alleged at a previous hearing that he thought Komada decided to plead guilty to keep the proceedings moving forward.
“He feels terribly remorseful for his conduct,” Bednar said after the change of plea hearing. “I think that’s a huge part of why he has entered the plea, so as not to put the victims through any trauma.”
When police arrived to arrest Komada in January 2018, officers allege he said: "I am disappointed in myself and the situation. My life is over."
Komada was a chess coach for 14 years in addition to being a teacher. According to police reports, Komada told a witness that he never abused any of his students.
He was first arrested on suspicion of sexual conduct with a minor, according to booking reports. After being released, he was booked a second time a week later on a second charge of continuous sexual abuse of a child.
A statement from the district and Flagstaff Police Department at the time indicated that Komada resigned from his position before the start of classes on Jan. 14, 2018.
“We are shocked and saddened to hear of the charges and the investigation into conduct occurring out of school by Mr. Komada,” Flagstaff Superintendent Mike Penca wrote in a statement at the time.
Parents and teachers were notified at the time of the charges.