Trump: North Korea sanctions I reversed were not 'necessary'

President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response MORE on Friday offered his first explanation for ordering the reversal of North Korea-related sanctions announced by his own Treasury Department last week, attributing it to his personal rapport with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"We understand each other," Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. "They are suffering greatly in North Korea, they’re having a hard time in North Korea, and I just didn’t think additional sanctions at this time were necessary.


"Doesn’t mean I don’t put them on later," he added. "But I didn't think that additional sanctions at this time were necessary."

He added that it's "very important" to maintain a relationship with Kim, telling reporters that the two men "have a very good understanding."

Trump sparked widespread confusion last week when he tweeted that he had "ordered the withdrawal" of "large scale Sanctions" announced by the U.S. Treasury Department against North Korea.

But the Treasury had not announced sanctions that day. The department had publicized sanctions one day earlier on two Chinese shipping companies accused of helping North Korea evade existing sanctions.

There has been little clarity in the time since over which sanctions Trump was referencing.

A source familiar with the decision said last week that Trump was not rolling back the announced sanctions, but instead was halting a new round of sanctions that had not yet been made public.

But Bloomberg reported earlier this week that the president was in fact referring to penalties on Chinese shipping companies. The news outlet said White House officials had convinced him to back off and devised a “cover story” for the president’s tweet.

Trump was not asked on Friday to clarify which sanctions he was reversing, but a Treasury Department official told The Hill that "last Thursday's sanctions remain in place."

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump told reporters in Florida that he was "not at all" upset with Treasury officials over the mishap last week.

"They had the right to do that," he said. "I just decided that I would not let it happen."

Trump compared the confusion over the North Korea sanctions to his administration's widely criticized decision to slash funding for the Special Olympics in its budget proposal.

The president said Thursday that the program would be funded after lawmakers in both parties slammed Education Secretary Betsy DeVosBetsy DeVosDeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP GOP lawmakers urge Cardona against executive student loan wipeout More insidious power grab than one attempted Jan. 6? MORE for the proposed fiscal 2020 cuts.

"It’s a little bit of a similar situation with different parties, to put it mildly," Trump said.

Trump has met face-to-face with Kim on two separate occasions as the U.S. seeks to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

The two leaders held a summit in Vietnam last month, which ended without an agreement for North Korea to abandon its nuclear arsenal. Talks collapsed amid disagreements over sanctions relief. The summit followed a similar one held last year in Singapore.

Updated: 5:49 p.m.