North Korea could conduct its fourth nuclear weapons test as early as late this year in order to force countries to come to the negotiating table, a U.S. expert on the communist country and former White House security official said Wednesday.
In a meeting with South Korean correspondents in Washington, Victor Cha said his prediction is based on set patterns followed by the North in the past that compels other countries to accept talks by first instigating provocations.
The Georgetown University professor estimated that unless there is headway made on the diplomatic front, Pyongyang may move to detonate another nuclear device within the year or in the spring of 2014.
The country, which detonated its first nuclear device in 2006, conducted further tests in 2009 and February of this year.
On the prospects of reopening six-party talks that have been halted since late 2008, Cha said the North needs to declare a moratorium on all nuclear and missile tests, and make clear its intent to halt its program to develop fissile materials such as plutonium and uranium.
He stressed specific actions must be taken by the North on these issues.
The scholar then said that China, concerned that the North may again try to raise tensions through provocation, is trying to broker a compromise between Pyongyang and Washington, but progress is not being made.
He said that informal talks held in Berlin and London in September by former U.S. government officials and North Korean nuclear negotiators probably produced little results.
The expert said the more recent trip by Beijing's point man on the North nuclear issue Wu Dawei to Pyongyang did not change the overall picture of the current situation.
Cha said that within Washington, many policymakers are feeling fatigued over the impasse and are currently paying more attention to developments in Iran and Afghanistan.
While there may be little direct link between the nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, negotiations to halt Iran's ambitions can exert influence on future talks with North Korea, he said. (Yonhap News)