Trump Reverses North Korea Sanctions, Bucking Treasury

Protesters wearing masks of U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stand near the map of Korean Peninsula during a rally demanding the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in Seoul, South Korea, on Thursday. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Friday to say he would reverse new sanctions on North Korea, defying his own Treasury Department.

“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,” he tweeted. “I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!”

Precisely what the president was referring to, however, remains unclear.

The Treasury Department did not announce any new sanctions on North Korea Friday. On Thursday, the agency did designate two Chinese-based shipping companies it said were helping North Korea evade international and U.S. sanctions.

It marked the first targeted action the administration has taken against North Korea since nuclear negotiations between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Vietnam ended abruptly without a deal last month.

But it is unclear whether the president had these sanctions in mind when he tweeted today.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders chalked the surprise announcement up to the president’s relationship with Kim.

“President Trump likes Chairman Kim and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary,” Sanders said.

The White House did not return an email seeking clarification on what sanctions the president had referenced in his tweet. Likewise, the Treasury Department did not return a request for comment.

Meanwhile, other members of the president’s administration have touted the effectiveness of sanctioning North Korea to pressure Kim to give up his nuclear weapons program.

“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,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement.

“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,” Mnuchin added.

National Security Adviser John Bolton called Thursday’s sanctioning of the two shipping companies “important.”

“The maritime industry must do more to stop North Korea’s illicit shipping practices,” Bolton tweeted on Thursday. “Everyone should take notice and review their own activities to ensure they are not involved in North Korea’s sanctions evasion.”

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