In an Oval Office meeting with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in, President Donald Trump said Thursday that he wants sanctions on North Korea to remain in place but doesn't want to increase them.
"I think the sanctions right now are at a level that's a fair level," Trump said. "We want sanctions to remain in place, and frankly I had the option of significantly increasing them."
"I didn't want to do that because of my relationship with Kim Jong Un. I didn't want to do that, I didn't think it was necessary, as you know a couple of weeks ago I held it back," he added, again touting his personal connection with the North Korean leader.
Trump's mention of holding back on increasing sanctions appeared to be a reference to a tweet he sent last month saying he was withdrawing new measures aimed at North Korea that were just issued by his own administration.
The tweet triggered confusion among his own aides and administration officials who were unsure what sanctions Trump was referring to and what the policy implications of the announcement might be.
Trump's meeting with Moon at the White House on Thursday comes after Kim issued a stark warning seemingly aimed at the US, saying North Korea needed to "deal a telling blow to the hostile forces who go with bloodshot eyes miscalculating that sanctions can bring the (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) to its knees," according to North Korean state media reports.
Kim's comments were made to the Fourth Plenary Meeting of the Seventh Central Committee of the Worker's Party in Pyongyang on Wednesday but were reported by North Korea's state news agency (KCNA) on Thursday.
On peace talks with North Korea, Trump said "you can work out step by step pieces. But at this moment, we are talking about the big deal. The big deal is, you have to get rid of the nuclear weapons."
He also declined to comment when asked if he has communicated with Kim in the last two weeks.
"Mr. President, have you communicated with Kim Jong Un in the last two weeks?" a reporter asked during the Oval Office meeting.
"I don't want to comment on that, but we have a very good relationship," Trump responded, adding that whether a third summit will take place is a decision for Kim after the two sides walked away from the table without any agreement during their February meeting in Hanoi.