Trump cancels US Treasury’s additional sanctions on North Korea via tweet

US President Donald Trump posts a tweet on Mar. 22 canceling the US Treasury’s additional sanctions on North Korea. (Trump’s Twitter account)

WASHINGTON D.C., Mar 24, 2019, Hankyoreh. US President Donald Trump nullified the Treasure Department’s additional sanctions on North Korea in a single day, reported the Hankyoreh.

Trump tweeted on Mar. 22: “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!”

Although Trump’s use of the word “today” in his tweet suggests that he canceled the sanctions on the same day they were announced, they were actually announced the day before, the New York Times reported.

On Mar. 21, the US Treasury announced that they were adding sanctions against two Chinese shipping companies suspected of helping North Korea evade existing UN sanctions. The Treasury Department also updated an advisory on three countries and 95 ships that are suspected of engaging in illicit ship-to-ship transactions with North Korea. This was seen the Trump administration’s way of adding pressure against North Korea.

Trump’s tweet canceling the additional sanctions was posted within 24 hours of the US Treasury’s announcement. In South Korean time, the announcement occurred on Friday, Mar. 22, at 2:40 am, and Trump’s cancellation tweet was posted on Saturday, Mar. 23, 2:20 am. During that time, North Korea withdrew all its personnel in the inter-Korean joint liaison office in Kaesong and notified the South after the fact.

In response to journalists’ questions regarding Trump’s tweet, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, “President Trump likes Chairman Kim and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary.”

Trump refrained from directly referring to North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui’s Mar. 15 (Mar. 14 US time) remarks that the North was considering “suspending negotiations with the US.” His tweet cancelling the additional sanctions was his first announcement related to North Korea in the eight days following Choe’s remarks.

It hasn’t been confirmed whether Trump found out about the Treasury Department’s sanctions announcement after the fact or if he already knew about them but simply wanted to make a show out of his “consideration” for North Korea via his cancellation order. Regardless, it seems clear that Trump’s is intent on avoiding heightening tensions with North Korea and keep the door open for further denuclearization negotiations. Considering that Sanders went out of her way to explain that “President Trump likes Chairman Kim,” Trump appears to have expressed his intentions to maintain his top-down approach in his interactions with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Since Trump thinks that additional sanctions are unnecessary, it seems unlikely that his administration will levy move to impose more sanctions on the North barring for the time being, barring exceptional circumstances. The next question is how Trump’s cancellation of additional sanctions will impact future negotiations with North Korea.

“The message this sends is unmistakable. After refusing to consider sanctions relief at Hanoi, Trump volunteers to loosen enforcement in order to preserve the talks,” said Adam Mount, director of the Defense Posture Project at the Federation of American Scientists, to CNN.

Trump’s tweet sent the US federal government spiraling into chaos. A US government department enacted a serious measure of great significance that was immediately overturned by the president. In response, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin released a statement saying, “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.”

After the US Treasury’s announcement, White House National Security Advisor tweeted his support for the additional sanctions by commending the “Important actions today from @USTreasury [. . .].” The US press reported that the White House was thrown into confusion by Trump’s tweet.

The Treasury Department spokesperson declined to respond to calls from the media to respond to Trump’s tweet.

By Hwang Joon-bum, Washington correspondent

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