VLADIMIR Putin believes North Korean despot Kim Jong-un has triumphed in his latest stand-off with Donald Trump over his nuclear missile program.

According to The Sun, the Russian president labelled Kim a “competent and mature politician” saying he had “won this round” with the US president.

However, he urged Kim to work to defuse international tensions over Pyongyang’s controversial nuclear program.

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

“I believe Mr Kim Jong-un has won this round,” Mr 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, which can now reach practically any point of the globe, at any rate [and] any point on the territory of its potential enemy.

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

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

Next month’s Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea face mounting tensions, with the North repeatedly test-firing missiles it claims are capable of reaching the US mainland.

The White House has said that Mr Trump is open to the US holding talks with North Korea “under the right circumstances.”

On Friday, The White House welcomed news of a drop in Chinese trade with North Korea, saying it would help put pressure on the Pyongyang regime.

“The Donald J. Trump Administration is pleased that China is sharply reducing its trade with North Korea,” the White House said, after official data showed a plunge of 33 percent in imports from North Korea last year — including a 81.6 percent drop in December.

“This action supports the United States-led global effort to apply maximum pressure until the North Korean regime ends its illicit programs, changes its behavior, and moves toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” the White House said in a statement.

Mr Trump told The Wall Street Journal that “I probably have a very good relationship” with Kim, potentially opening the door to diplomacy with the rogue nation.

The US president declined to say whether he had spoken with Kim, but added, “I’m not saying I have or haven’t. I just don’t want to comment.”

These comments echoed remarks Mr Trump made to reporters recently at Camp David, in which he said that dialogue with Pyongyang was not impossible.