SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea could conduct another nuclear test next year in an attempt to solidify itself as an atomic power, a news report said Friday, citing a state-run South Korean think tank.
The Korea Institute for Defense Analyses said in a report that the communist nation won't give up its nuclear ambitions and could test an atomic device in an attempt to assert itself as a nuclear weapons state, according to Yonhap news agency.
North Korea carried out its first-ever nuclear test in 2006 and the second, more powerful test blast in May. The think tank said the second test was five times as powerful as the first one and demonstrated progress Pyongyang had made in its capabilities to build atomic bombs, according to Yonhap.
A third test "would increase the possibility of the international community accepting North Korea as a nuclear weapons state," the report was quoted as saying.
The North could also test-fire a long-range missile, and provoke military clashes with South Korea near their land, sea and air borders next year, Yonhap cited the report as saying.
Neither the report nor comments from the think tank were available Friday.
North Korea quit international talks on ending its nuclear programs earlier this year in anger over international criticism of its long-range rocket launch denounced as a test of its missile technology. The regime then conducted the nuclear test and test-fired a series of ballistic missiles.
But since last summer, the North has been taking a softer line in an about-face that analysts and officials say shows the regime feels the pain of U.N. sanctions adopted to punish it for its nuclear test.
The North has also signaled its willingness to return to the negotiating table, saying after one-on-one talks with the U.S. earlier this month that it understands the need to resume the nuclear talks, and that it will try to resolve remaining differences with Washington.