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"I believe Mr Kim Jong-Un has won this round", Putin told Russian journalists on Thursday.

Putin reiterated that dialogue with North Korea was warranted, and said Kim now wanted to calm the situation.

"These [North Korea] officials feared that the USA was already trying to shape the battlefield for a military operation against the North, and that South Koreans do not seem to have grasped the reality that the Trump administration is set on a course for preventive war".

Satellite images show that North Korea has bored new tunnels near its Punggye-ri nuclear test site, indicating Pyongyang's intention to maintain its potential for future nuclear testing, a U.S. website specialised in North Korean affairs has said.

In follow-up questions Trump pushed back against the notion that his relationship with Pyongyang has soured, saying, "you'll see that a lot with me". "I think you people are surprised".

Trump has called Kim "Rocket Man" on a "suicide mission".

The talks resulted in the decision that North Korea would participate in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during the conference of cell chairpersons of the ruling party in Pyongyang
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during the conference of cell chairpersons of the ruling party in Pyongyang

Direct talks between the USA president and Kim would be unprecedented.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump said he may be open to diplomatic meetings with North Korea after months of trading insults and threats over its nuclear weapons program.

The Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next month have always been overshadowed by geopolitical tensions, with the North repeatedly test-firing missiles it says are capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, and detonating its most powerful nuclear device to date.

The images, taken on December 28, 2017 and revealed on Thursday by US-based website 38North, show that significant tunnel excavation activities were being carried out in the so-called Western Portal in Punggye-ri, in northeastern North Korea, Efe news reported.

Trump's strategy with North Korea has been hot and cold.

A White House statement said the two leaders discussed Macron's recent visit to China and committed to continue to apply pressure on North Korea.


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