Donald Trump has abruptly ordered the withdrawal of additional "large-scale" sanctions on North Korea, immediately after the Treasury Department imposed them, with his press secretary saying that the US President "likes" North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and does not think they are necessary.
President Trump's unusual move comes after his second summit with Kim, held last month in Hanoi, Vietnam. Trump walked out of that summit after refusing to agree to North Korea's demands of lifting all sanctions.
"It was announced today by the US Treasury that additional large- scale sanctions would be added to those already existing sanctions on North Korea. I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional sanctions!" Trump tweeted on Friday.
It was announced today by the U.S. Treasury that additional large scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea. I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 22, 2019
This was an apparent reference to sanctions the Treasury Department has announced Thursday on Chinese shipping companies doing business with North Korea. Those sanctions prompted swift pushback from the Chinese and North Korean governments.
The sanctions were the first new sign of pressure since talks between Trump and Kim broke down in Hanoi.
"The US and our like-minded partners remain committed to achieving the final, fully verified denuclearisation of North Korea and believe that the full implementation of North Korea-related UN Security Council resolutions is crucial to a successful outcome," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
"Treasury will continue to enforce our sanctions, and we are making it explicitly clear that shipping companies employing deceptive tactics to mask illicit trade with North Korea expose themselves to great risk," it said.
The National Security Advisor John Bolton described it as an "important" action.
"The maritime industry must do more to stop North Korea's illicit shipping practices. Everyone should take notice and review their own activities to ensure they are not involved in North Korea's sanctions evasion," Bolton tweeted.
The White House, however, defended Trump's decision.
In June, Trump and Kim had their first-ever historic meeting aimed at normalising ties and complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
While North Korea since then has refrained from overtly provocative actions like testing nuclear warheads or ballistic missiles, it has yet to agree to actually give up any piece of its atomic arsenal.