-Politico interview@ (Adds quotes, criticism of ZTE)
WASHINGTON, May 15 (Reuters) - White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Tuesday it was far from certain what steps the U.S. government would take on China's ZTE Corp, which he said was more an enforcement issue than a trade issue.
U.S. President Donald Trump has directed the Commerce Department to revisit penalties for telecom equipment maker ZTE for flouting U.S. sanctions on trade with Iran, saying it is a big customer of U.S. suppliers.
Kudlow was critical of ZTE in an interview with Politico news outlet, saying it was a "very poorly run company" with "many internal flaws."
Trump has directed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to review "remedies" for ZTE, Kudlow said.
"This is principally an enforcement issue, by the way. It's really divorced from the trade story," Kudlow said.
"I think the issue here is how harsh the remedies, how harsh the enforcement," Kudlow told Politico. "The issue here is not simply letting them off but perhaps to do so in a manner that they could conceivably go back into business. I don't want to get that far down the road but I think that's the intent."
Trump, who campaigned for the White House pledging to get even with China on trade practices that hurt American consumers, faced backlash from Republican and Democratic lawmakers after he promised to work with Chinese President Xi Jinping to help ZTE, saying too many jobs in China had been lost.
The company shut its main operations after the Commerce Department banned U.S. companies from selling components to ZTE for seven years for violating the terms of a settlement deal for illegally shipping goods made with U.S. parts to Iran and North Korea.
"We don't know what the outcome is going to be - I can't possibly say here," Kudlow said. (Reporting by Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Steve Orlofsky)