Donald Trump pays North Korean leader strange, back-handed compliment - then warns countries on edge of 'major, major conflict'

US leader Donald Trump has warned of “major, major conflict” with North Korea (Rex)

US President Donald Trump has paid North Korean leader a Kim Jong-un a strange, back-handed compliment – while at the same time warned the two countries are on the verge of a “major, major conflict”.

In an interview, the US leader admitted some grudging respect for Kim, referring to when the North Korean became leader of his secretive country in 2011.

“He’s 27 years old,” said Trump. “His father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want but that is not easy, especially at that age,” he said.

“I’m not giving him credit or not giving him credit, I’m just saying that’s a very hard thing to do. As to whether or not he’s rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he’s rational,” he said.

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But that was as far as the praise went.

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un (Rex)

In a chilling warning that the world could be on the verge of a catastrophic war, Trump added: “There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely.

“We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult,” he said.

His warning came after the US in recent days pushed for North Korea not to carry out major new weapons tests.

The US has said it will talk directly with Kim to ensure North Korea got rid of any nuclear weapons.

He added that China, North Korea’s chief ally, was trying to put pressure on Pyongyang to step back from war.

North Korean troops take part in a military parade earlier this month (Rex)

“I believe he [the Chinese president, Xi Jinping] is trying very hard,” said Trump, in an interview with Reuters.

“He certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death. He doesn’t want to see it. He is a good man. He is a very good man and I got to know him very well.”

North Korea has vowed to counter any American action and In an increasing sign of tension, Australian prime minister has warned Pyongyang could launch a nuclear attack on neighbouring countries.