SEOUL - North Korea will probably carry out a third atomic test next year and prospects for bilateral talks with the South are slim, a research report from a South Korean foreign ministry institute said on Friday.
The regular report was published a day after Pyongyang vowed a nuclear "sacred war" and the South 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 programme, but a third test would raise tensions further on the divided peninsula and rattle global markets.
"There is a possibility for 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, Pyongyang's heir apparent.
"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, which is run by the Foreign Ministry.
Analysts say the North's tactic of demonstrating what progress it has made towards developing a nuclear weapon is a ploy aimed at restarting talks between itself, the South, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, from which it hopes to wring concessions.
"Some form of meeting between six-party members could be held during 2011 to discuss North Korea's uranium enrichment, but chances are very low for any meaningful progress being achieved," the institute said.
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