Trump will remove new North Korea-related sanctions because he 'likes' Kim Jong Un

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump says he will remove new North Korea-related sanctions announced only on Thursday. 
  • The White House says he made the sudden move because he "likes" North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. 
  • The U.S. is pushing North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile programs. 
US President Donald Trump (R) gestures as he meets with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

President Donald Trump said Friday that he would scrap action his administration took only a day earlier to crack down on companies accused of helping North Korea evade sanctions.

"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," the president tweeted on Friday, though the Treasury announcement he appeared to reference took place Thursday and did not involve "large scale" sanctions. "I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!"

Donald Trump North Korea tweet

In explaining the president's sudden announcement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, "President Trump likes Chairman Kim and he doesn't think these sanctions will be necessary." Trump's tweet and the press secretary's clarification of it sent waves of confusion throughout Washington, from the Pentagon to the White House itself.

On Thursday, Treasury designated two China-based shipping companies that it said has aided Pyongyang in circumventing U.S. and international sanctions. The U.S. and its allies have used those economic measures to push North Korea to dismantle its nuclear and missile programs.

Trade deal or no deal, the U.S. and China are still fighting for global power
Trade deal or no deal, the U.S. and China are still fighting for global power

Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un have met face to face twice, but left a summit in Vietnam last month without reaching a deal on denuclearization. Since the summit, reports have emerged of new activity at a North Korean missile research center and rocket site.

Trump's surprise reversal Friday marks a departure from his administration's messaging a day earlier. In a tweet Thursday after the Treasury's announcement, White House National Security Advisor John Bolton said "everyone should take notice and review their own activities to ensure that they are not involved in North Korea's sanctions evasion."

John Bolton North Korea tweet

Since exchanging explosive rhetoric with Kim during his first year in office, Trump has aimed to assuage his North Korean counterpart as he pushes for an agreement to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

The president has also tried to tread carefully around China as he tries to reach a trade deal with Beijing and end a potentially devastating trade conflict. The U.S. has viewed getting Beijing to pull back its support for North Korea as crucial to getting the isolated regime to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

A Treasury Department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the president's tweet. The Pentagon referred all queries about it to the White House.

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