Russian President Vladimir Putin paid North Korea’s Kim Jong Un a compliment on Thursday, calling him a “shrewd and mature politician” whose country had come out on top in its nuclear standoff with South Korea and the U.S.
In his New Year’s address, Kim warned of “a nuclear button on the desk in [his] office” that could launch a strike anywhere in the U.S., but also spoke of easing tensions between North and South Korea “to create a peaceful environment,” prompting a series of high-level talks between the two countries.
In a meeting with Russian journalists on Thursday, Putin praised Kim for his statements and for initiating the talks, the first of which took place on Tuesday.
“I believe Mr. Kim Jong Un has certainly won this round,” Putin said, according to Russian state news outlet RT.
“He has a nuclear [charge] and a...missile with a range of up to 13,000 kilometers that can reach almost any place on Earth, or at least any territory of his potential adversary,” he added.
Putin also called Kim “shrewd and mature,” Reuters reported.
In the first of the talks between North and South Korea, North Korea said it would send a delegation to the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and agreed to reopen a military hotline with the South.
The “nuclear button” statement Kim made in his New Year’s Eve broadcast, meanwhile, elicited a threatening response from U.S. President Donald Trump on Twitter, in which he maintained the U.S.’s nuclear capabilities were greater than those of North Korea.
“Will someone from [Kim’s] depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” Trump tweeted on Jan. 2.
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018
Less, than a week later, Trump said he would “absolutely” speak with Kim on the phone.
“Sure, I always believe in talking. Absolutely I would do that, I wouldn’t have a problem with that at all,” he said.
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