U.S. sanctions Chinese companies for violating embargoes on North Korea

"The North's side pulled out after conveying to us that they are doing so on the instructions from a higher level, during a liaison officials' contact this morning", South Korea's Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung told a briefing. It said South Korea urges the North to return its staff to the liaison office soon.

North Korea informed South Korean officials of its decision during a meeting Friday at the liaison office in the North Korean border town of Kaesong, Seoul's Unification Ministry said. Please refresh the page for the fullest version.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said he was ordering the withdrawal of recently announced North Korea-related sanctions imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department.

The sanctions are against two Chinese shipping companies that have assisted North Korea in bypassing restrictions imposed by the US and the United Nations Security Council.

The two Koreas have no diplomatic relations, so the establishment of an inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong last September was, arguably, the most substantive deliverable to come out of last year's inter-Korean engagement process.

It happened three weeks after the second U.S.

The departure of North Korean officials from the Kaesong office follows the breakdown in nuclear negotiations between the USA and North Korea.

Friday's North Korean action follows reports Wednesday that the US State Department was offering US$6 million for projects aimed at upgrading human rights in North Korea.

He underlined that China respected all United Nations resolutions on North Korea.

While the liaison office was one of the main agreements reached in three summits between Moon and Kim a year ago, Chun said it's too early to say whether North Korea is renegading on the deals.

It also cited 67 vessels for engaging in illicit transfers of refined petroleum with North Korean tankers or facilitating the export of the North's coal.

While declining to say whether Washington was trying to send a post-summit message to Pyongyang, the official said Trump "has made clear that the door is wide open to continuing the dialogue with North Korea".

The liaison office is the first since the peninsula was split into a USA -backed capitalistic South and a Soviet-supported socialist North in 1945.

On Monday, two senior USA senators called for the Trump administration to correct a slowing pace of American sanctions designations on North Korea, saying such actions had seen a marked decline in the past year of US diplomatic engagement with Pyongyang.

"We want to monitor the situation for a bit longer and respond to the developments, instead of making predictions or premature judgments", Chun said.