North Korea liaison office, easing tensions with South Korea.
President Trump said Friday that he has ordered the Treasury Department to halt plans for “additional large scale” sanctions against North Korea on the same day that Pyongyang abruptly announced its withdrawal from a liaison office aimed at easing tensions with South Korea.
“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,” Trump said on Twitter. “I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!”
In a follow up statement, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the president “likes Chairman Kim and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary.”
It was not immediately clear which sanctions Trump was referring to, on Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department slapped sanctions on two Chinese companies for illicitly shipping goods to and from North Korea, violating the current sanctions regime.
His announcement marks the latest development indicating that the president is intervening on issues traditionally handled by officials in the Treasury and State Departments. On Thursday, the president backtracked on decades of U.S. administration policy by backing Israel’s claim to sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which has been under dispute with Syria since 1967.
Trump’s latest tweet came hours after North Korea withdrew staff from a liaison office with South Korea that is meant to strengthen the relationship between the two countries. It was a surprise move on Friday that appears to be the latest fallout from a disappointing summit earlier this month between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
In a Friday morning meeting, North Korean officials informed their South Korean counterparts of the decision to pull out of the office at Kaesong that had served as the main point of contact between the neighbors, citing “instruction from a superior authority,” a likely reference to Kim.
North Korean staff left the liaison office in the border town of Kaesong, North Korea, shortly thereafter.
They added that Pyongyang “will not mind the South remaining in the office,” according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry.
The government in Seoul called the move “regrettable,” and urged the North to return soon.
The inter-Korea liaison office was opened in September 2018 as a way to establish full-time, person-to-person interaction between the two Koreas.
At the time, South Korean Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon announced that with the office in place, “South and North Korea can hold face-to-face discussions 24 hours a day and every day of the year on matters concerning improving inter-Korean ties and promoting peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.”
The office was created following a thawing of tensions that resulted from one-on-one meetings last year between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, followed by a summit in June between the North Korean leader and President Trump. However, a similar Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi earlier this month came to an early close amid disagreements concerning U.S. sanctions and Pyongyang’s failure to denuclearize.
On Thursday, the Trump administration moved to tighten sanctions on Pyongyang for its continued efforts to build nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
The departure of North Korean officials from the Kaesong office follows the breakdown in nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea.
Last week, North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui announced that the country was considering ending talks with Washington altogether, blaming U.S. officials for the stalemate.