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(LEAD) N.K. to seek talks with U.S. after ICBM's successful re-entry: Seoul think tank

2017/12/21 15:57

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SEOUL, Dec. 21 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is likely to seek dialogue with the United States after it successfully tests the re-entry technology of its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), a South Korean state-run think tank said Thursday.

The North is expected to fire its Hwasong-15 ICBM at least once next year as it seeks to perfect its technology for a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland, according to the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security.

"If the North launches the missile on a standard trajectory and its re-entry technology is confirmed, there is a high possibility that North Korea will seek disarmament talks with the U.S. on its proclaimed nuclear state status," the institute said in its 2018 forecast for international affairs.

North Korea fired the Hwasong-15 ICBM in late November, claiming that it can put the whole U.S. mainland within range. With the test, Pyongyang declared that it has completed its "state nuclear force."

   But experts said that the North still seems to be short of mastering the re-entry technology, which allows a warhead to withstand extreme heat and pressure when it passes through the Earth's atmosphere.

The institute said that Seoul and Washington would not want disarmament talks with the North as holding such negotiations means that they recognize the North as a nuclear state.

"But if the North takes a course for negotiations, South Korea and the U.S. cannot easily shun away from a dialogue offer," the institute said. "This will make the allies seriously think about what to do."

   Touching on the possibility of war on the Korean Peninsula, it said that a chance of "accidental" conflicts cannot be excluded at a time of heightened tensions.

The think tank said that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could opt for a "limited war" to intensify internal solidarity if the regime faces a severe crisis.