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Trump: Kim Jong Un is 'a pretty smart cookie'

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump offered some backhanded praise for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, calling him "a pretty smart cookie" in an interview that aired on Sunday.

The remarks came amid soaring tensions with North Korea over its missile and nuclear programmes, with Washington looking to China for help in reining in Mr Kim.

Mr Trump said he had "no idea" whether Mr Kim was sane or not, but said the North Korean had faced a formidable challenge in taking over the country at a reported age of 27.

"He's dealing with obviously very tough people, in particular the generals and others. And at a very young age, he was able to assume power," Mr Trump said in the interview with CBS's Face The Nation.

"A lot of people, I'm sure, tried to take that power away...

"So obviously, he's a pretty smart cookie.

"But we have a situation that we just cannot let - we cannot let what's been going on for a long period of years continue," Mr Trump added.

North Korea has kept the West on edge for weeks over signs that it may conduct a sixth nuclear test, punctuated by a series of missile tests that have aroused US fears that the regime may be close to developing a ballistic missile capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead.

The North launched its latest missile test last Saturday, which failed.

Mr Trump refused to comment on whether the US had anything to do with the failure.

"It is a chess game. I don't want people to know what my thinking is," he said.

If North Korea carries out a nuclear test, Mr Trump told CBS: "I would not be happy.

"And I can tell you also, I don't believe that the President of China, who is a very respected man, will be happy either."

Asked if "not happy" signified military action, Mr Trump answered: "I don't know. I mean, we'll see.

"I think that, frankly, North Korea is maybe more important than trade. Trade is very important. But massive warfare with millions, potentially millions of people being killed? That, as we would say, trumps trade." - AFP

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