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Vladimir Putin has said he believes North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has “won this round” with Donald Trump.

The Russian President praised North Korean leader Kim as a “competent and mature politician” following the latter’s increasingly bitter standoff with the US President.

However, he urged the supreme leader to defuse international tensions over Pyongyang’s controversial nuclear programme.

Mr Putin’s comments come after Kim unexpectedly agreed to restore dialogue with South Korea two years after relations broke down.

“I believe Mr Kim Jong Un has won this round,” Putin told Russian journalists.

“He has achieved his strategic task – he has a nuclear warhead, and a global-range missile with a range of up to 13,000 kilometres (8,000 miles), which can now reach practically any point of the globe, at any rate any point on the territory of its potential enemy.

“He is an absolutely competent and already mature politician.”

The Russian leader added it was in Kim’s “interest to harmonise, calm the situation”.

Kim Jong Un vowed North Korea would mass-produce nuclear warheads in his New Year's message

Image: Kim Jong Un vowed North Korea would mass-produce nuclear warheads in his New Year’s message

World leaders were taken by surprise when the North said it wanted its athletes to take part in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next month.

As part of the deal Kim said he was keen to open up a dialogue with Seoul.

On Tuesday, Pyeongyang agreed to send athletes and officials to the Games as the two Koreas held their first formal talks in the Demilitarised Zone in Panmunjom.

The White House said on Wednesday Mr Trump is open to the US holding talks with North Korea “under the right circumstances” after his ally, South Korean President Moon Jae-in signalled a willingness to sit down with Kim.

The offer is in stark contrast to the heated rift between the US and North Korean leaders over the past year.

During their latest exchange the pair taunted each other about their nuclear capabilities.

Kim warned he had a nuclear button on his desk and the “entire mainland of the US is withing the range of our nuclear weapons”.

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Mr Trump replied by saying he too has a nuclear button but “it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his, and my button works”.

North Korea fired 23 missiles during 16 tests in 2017, including three intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests.

World News – Breaking international news and headlines | Sky News

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