Trump Removes North Korea Sanctions One Day After Treasury Imposed Them

The president reportedly lifted the sanctions because he 'likes' Kim Jong Un, according to White House staff.

Donald Trump speaking.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The president reportedly lifted the sanctions because he 'likes' Kim Jong Un, according to White House staff.

President Trump has decided to lift new sanctions imposed on North Korea by the Treasury Department just one day ago.

“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!” Trump declared in a message over Twitter.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders explained the surprising about-face by the president.

“President Trump likes Chairman Kim [Jong Un] and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary,” she said, per CNBC.

The sanctions that Trump is referring to involve two Chinese shipping companies which the Treasury Department designated yesterday as attempting to circumvent U.S. and international sanctions on North Korea. The president appeared to confuse the date of the new actions against the shipping companies, which occurred Thursday rather than Friday, as he stated in his tweet.

These new sanctions are the first the Treasury Department has imposed on North Korea since the end of last year. The president’s reversal also comes just over a month after his Hanoi summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ended without any deal for denuclearization on the Korean peninsula.

When announcing the original punishment for the shipping companies in violation of existing sanctions, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin issued a statement describing the implementation of the sanctions as “crucial” to North Korean denuclearization.

“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 U.N. Security Council resolutions is crucial to a successful outcome,” he said, per The New York Times.

White House National Security Advisor John Bolton had also noted over Twitter after the sanctions were first announced that “everyone should take notice and review their own activities to ensure that they are not involved in North Korea’s sanctions evasion.”

The confusing move by Trump to undo his administration’s work, seemingly on a whim, is only the latest in a long line of odd policy decisions out of the White House. John E. Smith, the former director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, was scathing in his critique of the news.

“For an administration that continues to surprise, this is another first — the president of the United States undercutting his own sanctions agency for imposing sanctions on Chinese actors supporting North Korea,” he said. “It’s a win for North Korea and China and a loss for U.S. credibility.”