In a report Tuesday, South Korea said that it felt that North Korea will come to the table with the U.S. in the new year, but the county continued to prepare for a nuclear threat from the North.
“North Korea will seek negotiation with [the] United States, while continuing to pursue its effort to be recognized as a de facto nuclear-possessing country,” said the South Korean Ministry of Unification if a report.
The government body promotes reunification with North Korea. The report offered no reasons for that conclusion, according to Reuters.
While offering a rosy 2018 prediction, South Korea also said that they were setting up a special military unit to deal with North Korea. A new official was set to oversee the unit whose mission is to “deter and respond to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat,” according to the Ministry of National Defense.
“As North Korean nuclear and missile threats become more sophisticated and realistic, the reshuffle focuses on creating an organizational system with expertise which can assume full charge of response policy at the level of the Ministry of National Defense,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday.
The move was the latest in a series of bureaucratic restructuring in South Korea this year aimed at targeting a new set of North Korean nuclear threats.
The rosy prediction comes on the heels of rising tension between North Korea and the rest of the world, on Friday the United Nations Security Council passed its toughest yet economic sanctions on North Korea. Russia and China, two countries that have shown reticence about punishing North Korea, went along with the sanctions.
China released customs data Tuesday indicating they exported no oil products to North Korea in November including diesel and jet fuel in a move to show that Beijing is going above and beyond U.N. sanctions. China is North Korea’s chief trading partner. The Chinese General Administration of Customs also that did not officially import coal from North Korea.
Pyongyang participates in a global black market to help fund its missile and nuclear program.
North Korea aggressively progressed its weapons programs in 2017 and showcased those improvements with a number of provocative tests. North Korea tested its sixth and most powerful nuclear weapon in September, claiming it was a hydrogen bomb. The country also launched a series of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) that showed North Korea theoretically has the capability of hitting the entire continental U.S. Experts, however, doubt that North Korea currently has the capability of tipping an ICBM with a nuclear warhead that could reach the U.S.