Seoul: North Korea could conduct a third atomic test next year to boost the credentials of its leader-in-waiting, while prospects for bilateral talks with Seoul are slim, a South Korean Foreign Ministry report said on Friday.
The regular report from a ministry research institute was published a day after Pyongyang vowed a nuclear "sacred war" after the South vowed to be "merciless" if attacked, and held a major military drill near the border.
The North, which carried out nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, has yet to show it has a deliverable weapon as part of its plutonium arms program, but a third test would raise tensions further on the divided peninsula and rattle global markets.
Nuclear experts have also said they expect a third test soon, while South Korean media reported earlier this month that the North was digging a tunnel in preparation for one.
"There is a possibility of North Korea carrying out its third nuclear test to seek improvement in its nuclear weapons production capability, keep the military tension high and promote Kim Jong-Un`s status as the next leader," the report said, referring to Kim Jong-Il`s youngest son.
"Tension between the two Koreas will remain high with chances of additional North Korean attacks on the South staying high. Chances of a summit meeting between leaders of the two sides look slim," the institute said, according to a summary of the report.
The analysis for 2011 was written by the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, run by the Foreign Ministry.