North Korea may shift to compromising alternatives for its nuclear weapons development next year in the face of U.S. threats of military options, while the North's bid to become a globally recognized nuclear state could be hampered by fiscal hardships, a think tank here forecast Friday.
"(In 2017) North Korea hasn't been diplomatically compromising at all. But the year 2018 will be different. It will likely be a year for inevitable concessions with the international community," the Asan Institute for Policy Studies said in its global political prediction for next year.
Following dozens of ballistic missile tests and one nuclear detonation test in 2017, North Korea said last month that it has completed its state nuclear force.
Having done that, North Korea needs to acquire as many as 100 units of intercontinental ballistic missiles, conduct an airborne test of a nuclear weapon-tipped ballistic missile and succeed in a test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile near the U.S. in order to earn an international status as a country virtually having working nuclear weapons, according to the institute.
"But there's little room for North Korea to conduct bigger provocations... If North Korea does the tests, the U.S. would strongly protest and may even execute a military option," the think tank said. "That may leave North Korea (the only option of) concessions."
Against this backdrop, North Korea is likely to engage with the international community next year, possibly through the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics (in South Korea)," it said.
"If there's no progress in North Korea-U.S. talks and if the U.S. continues its hard-line stance, North Korea may try to make a breakthrough by improving relations with South Korea," according to the institute.
North Korea's grim economic conditions and following financial difficulties may also make it hard for the country to finance the final pathway toward a nuclear state, it also said.
China and Russia, North Korea's closest allies so far, may also turn from their tolerance to increase pressure on Pyongyang as the regime's nuclear weapons would increasingly become security threats to themselves, the institute noted, adding that the regime is expected to officially declare itself a state possessing nuclear weapons in a plenary ruling party meeting in the first half of 2018. (Yonhap)