Putin takes sides between North and South Korea

BY TRACY MATHESON / JANUARY 11, 2018 /

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Russian President Vladimir Putin declared on Thursday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was the victor in the latest standoff with South Korea over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

During a meeting with Russian journalists, Putin called Kim “shrewd and mature” in his management of escalated tensions with Seoul and Washington, and said that Kim is now looking to diffuse hostilities, Reuters reported.

“I believe, Mr. Kim Jong Un has certainly won this round,” Putin said, according RT, a news organization funded by the Kremlin.

Putin made his remarks two days after North Korea announced that it would send a delegation of athletes to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February. The two countries made the agreement during diplomatic talks — the first between them in years.

In a speech delivered on New Year’s Day, Kim declared that North Korea had acquired nuclear weapons which are capable of striking the United States mainland and insisted that the international community accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state.

Kim also used the speech to signal his willingness to engage in immediate dialogue with South Korea and indicated that his country was interested in sending athletes to the Winter Games.

In recent months, the U.S. and South Korea have increased collective international pressure against North Korea in an attempt to force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear proliferation program.

North Korea has refused, contending that its development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles is required to deter a potential attack by the U.S.