|North Korea test fires the “Hwasong-15” ICBM on Nov. 29. (Yonhap)|
“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 US on its proclaimed nuclear state status,” the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security said in its 2018 forecast.
According to IFANS, there is a high probability that the North will launch at least one “Hwasong-15” ICBM in 2018, which scientists and experts say puts the US mainland well within its target range.
On Nov. 29, North Korea fired what it claimed to be the latest version of its ICBM at a lofted angle. Experts said it could fly more than 13,000 kilometers if launched at a range maximizing trajectory.
Pyongyang‘s negotiations framework could be difficult to accept for both the US and South Korea, it noted, but the allies would not be able to easily turn away from dialogue.
North Korea has said it is willing to come to the dialogue table if the US recognizes it as a full-fledged nuclear weapons state. The US State Department has reiterated denuclearization as a mandatory precondition for talks.
Despite growing concerns over North Korea’s fast-developing weapons program, the Seoul-based think tank also pointed out that the isolated regime still faces limits in securing atmospheric re-entry technology for its missile.
As an ICBM re-enters the atmosphere and falls at a top speed of Mach 24, it must survive temperatures of 6,000-7,000 degrees Celsius.
If North Korea fails to prove its re-entry technology, the diplomatic confrontation that played throughout this year is likely to continue, the report said.
On the chances of a military conflict on the Korean Peninsula, the think tank said the overall probability is low, but the risk of an accidental war lurks beneath the heightened tensions.
“Minor military conflicts near the border may spiral into a full-blown war under the current heightened military tensions between the South and the North,” it said.
By Jung Min-kyung (firstname.lastname@example.org)