President Trump tweeted Friday that he had ordered an end to new, large-scale sanctions against North Korea, causing confusion among administration officials, who said the decision was made because Trump “likes” Kim Jong-Un.
The president’s tweet, which referenced sanctions announced on Friday, caused bewilderment within his administration and among reporters. No sanctions were announced Friday, though the Treasury Department announced action against two Chinese shipping companies the day before.
A source familiar with the situation told BuzzFeed News that the president’s tweet did not reverse any existing sanctions and was referring to new, large-scale sanctions against North Korea that had not been announced publicly — and as of Friday, would not be going forward.
Information about what the proposed sanctions would have covered, and when they had been planned to be announced, was not immediately available.
Though the president didn’t provide an explanation for his actions, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that Trump withdrew the sanctions because he likes North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
“President Trump likes Chairman Kim, and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary,” Sanders said.
Trump has been working to reach an agreement with Kim to denuclearize North Korea. A much-anticipated summit in Vietnam between the two leaders ended earlier this month without an agreement.
Thursday’s sanction activity tied into existing UN Security Council resolutions and aimed at Chinese shipping companies accused of going around international bans against selling goods to North Korea. An updated shipping advisory also named dozens of ships that were believed to have made transfers of goods to North Korean vessels.
In a statement Thursday, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said those actions were “crucial” to ending the use of nuclear weapons by North Korea.
“The United States and our like-minded partners remain committed to achieving the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea and believe that the full implementation of North Korea-related UN Security Council resolutions is crucial to a successful outcome,” he said. “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.”
On Thursday, national security adviser John Bolton praised the Treasury’s move.
“The maritime industry must do more to stop North Korea’s illicit shipping practices,” he tweeted. “Everyone should take notice and review their own activities to ensure they are not involved in North Korea’s sanctions evasion.”
Neither Mnuchin or Bolton immediately commented on the president’s decision to cancel future sanction plans.