South Korean leadership backtracked statements that it’s considering lifting sanctions on North Korea Thursday, following harsh criticism from President Donald Trump and the conservative base at home.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said Wednesday that economic sanctions against the northern neighbor were under review, the New York Times reports. The sanctions were imposed in 2010 when 46 South Koreans sailors died in a Navy ship attack (which North Korea denies any part of), but also serve as part of the international push for North Korea’s denuclearization.
In response to Kang’s remark, Trump told reporters, “They won’t do it without our approval. They do nothing without our approval,” Reuters reports.
While some South Korean lawmakers called Trump’s comments an “insult,” they also criticized Kang’s statement: the sanctions aren’t meant to be lifted until North Korea apologizes for the 2010 attack. The push-back prompted the South Korean minister for unification, Cho Myoung-gyon, to walk back the comment on Thursday, saying no serious consideration has been put into sanctions removal.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has attempted to ease tensions with North Korea during his tenure, last month meeting in Pyongyang to discuss normalizing relations. The Trump administration, however, maintains relations should only improve with promises of denuclearization, the Washington Post reports.