US President Donald Trump hailed George H.W. Bush as a "truly wonderful man" and announced plans to attend his Washington funeral, setting aside years of animosity with the Bush dynasty that he toppled in his takeover of the Republican Party.

After news of Bush's death reached Trump during the Group of 20 summit in Argentina, he amended his schedule and designated Thursday as a national day of mourning.

Despite deep acrimony between Trump and the Bush family, who represent divergent brands of Republicanism, Trump showered praise on Bush's legacy as a World War II veteran and lifelong public servant, a resume distinctly divergent from his own.

Trump said he spoke by phone to two of the late President's sons, former President George W. Bush and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush - who was among the GOP primary candidates Trump vanquished in 2016 - to express his "deepest sympathies". Trump said they discussed the close bond between the sons and their father. "President George H.W. Bush led a long, successful and beautiful life," Trump tweeted. "Whenever I was with him I saw his absolute joy for life and true pride in his family. His accomplishments were great from beginning to end. He was a truly wonderful man and will be missed by all!"

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Later, Trump told reporters that he "extended our best wishes" to the Bush family. Seated alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel for a meeting, Trump called the late President "a very fine man". Trump said he planned to dispatch Air Force One to Houston to collect Bush's casket and bring the former President's body to Washington. "I met him on a number of occasions," Trump said. "He was a terrific guy and he'll be missed. He lived a full life and an exemplary life."

When a reporter shouted a question about whether he regrets his past criticisms of the Bushes - which included calling the US invasion of Iraq during George W. Bush's tenure "the single worst decision ever made" and referring to Jeb as "low-energy" during the campaign - Trump said said only: "Thank you very much, everybody".

Trump's rare stab at playing the role of statesman came amid an outpouring of respect for Bush from politicians on both sides of the aisle. In many ways, the two presidents were near opposites.

The White House announced a state funeral was being prepared for Bush, and Trump's decision to attend raised the potentially awkward spectre of the 45th president sitting alongside other figures with whom he has feuded, such as former President Barack Obama.

There have been more than three years of hostility between Trump and the Bush family. Trump's dismissive treatment of the family and disregard for political convention prompted George H.W. Bush to withhold his endorsement from the GOP nominee.

"I don't like him," Bush said in a May 2016 interview with Mark Updegrove in his book, The Last Republicans. He added that he thought Trump was driven by "a certain ego. I don't know much about him, but I know he's a blowhard. And I'm not too excited about him being a leader."

The funeral

• President George Bush snr's casket will arrive at the US Capitol in Washington on Tuesday NZT.

• It will be on public display as the 41st US president lies in state in the Rotunda until Thursday.

• Members of Congress will pay their respects starting at 11am on Tuesday.

• The general public can do the same beginning at 1.30pm.

• Thursday will be a national day of mourning.

• Flags on all public buildings will be at half-staff for 30 days.

• Information for the state funeral will be posted on Georgehwbush.com.