In the latest of a series of measures seeking to add pressure on North Korea over its nuclear programme, the US government is targeting more than 50 vessels, shipping companies and trade businesses with sanctions.
The President announced the measures at the Conservative Political Action Conference, and was to be followed by a public announcement from the Treasury Department.
“Today I am announcing that we are launching the largest-ever set of new sanctions on the North Korean regime,” Mr Trump said at the CPAC event outside of the Washington DC.
The sanctions are targeted at sources of fuel and cash for Pyongyang.
During Mr Trump’s first year in office, North Korea has, in defiance of much of the international community, been aggressive about testing intercontinental ballistic missiles that could theoretically reach the US mainland, even if US experts believe they may not yet be capable of carrying a nuclear payload with them.
Mr Trump has responded with several sets of sanctions and sabre threatening and threats that have matched that of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
He has mocked the 36-year-old as “rocket man”, bragged that he has a bigger nuclear button at his disposal than his North Korean leader and told the UN General Assembly that the US may be obliged to “totally destroy” the country if it continues to represent a threat to the US and its allies in the region, notably South Korea and Japan.
The announcement comes as South Korea hosts the Winter Olympics, an occasion the two Koreas have used as an opportunity to try to restart talks.
Vice President Mike Pence was to have met with with North Korean officials, including Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, and Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s ceremonial head of state.
But the North Koreans pulled out of the meeting before it could happen, apparently upset by some of the Mr Pence’s comments. Mr Pence’s office said they believed the abrupt cancellation was a sign that US attempts to exert pressure on the regime were working.
“North Korea dangled a meeting in hopes of the vice president softening his message, which would have ceded the world stage for their propaganda during the Olympics,” Mr Nick Ayers, the Vice President’s Chief of Staff, told reporters.
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