North Korea Likely to Explore Possibility of Talks with US in 2018: Ministry

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - North Korea is likely to explore the possibility of dialogue with the United States in 2018 as the communist state seeks to secure a status as a de facto possessor of nuclear weapons, the South Korean Ministry of Unification said Tuesday.

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"North Korea may continue to advance its nuclear and missile capabilities while searching for an outlet externally," the ministry said in its predictions for North Korea in 2018. "In searching for the recognition of its status as a de facto nuclear-possessing state, (the North) would explore the possibility of negotiations with the US."

At the same time, the North is also likely to attempt to engage with South Korea in order to restore inter-Korean relations next year, it also said. It added that the ministry will closely watch North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's New Year address on Jan. 1 to see if it alludes to such possibilities, Yonhap news agency reported.

Next year, North Korea is expected to start to feel the pinch of international and bilateral sanctions on the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, the ministry said.

"North Korea is forecast to maximize efforts to endure (the impact of sanctions) by tightening social control and mobilizing its people for building the economy," the ministry said. It predicted the sanctions' economic ramifications may start to show in 2018, with effects including cuts in trade volume and foreign currency inflow, as well as reduced production in each part of the economy.

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