SEOUL, Feb. 2 (Yonhap) -- The United States could consider a pre-emptive strike as a possible option to deal with North Korea's evolving nuclear weapons capabilities, given that its new diplomatic and national security team is comprised of many hardliners, a researcher of a Seoul-based state-run think tank said Thursday.
In the report on the outlooks for U.S.-China relations under the new administration in Washington, Lee Ji-yong, a researcher of the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security (IFANS), also underlined the need for South Korea to open communication channels with the North to help resolve the drawn-out nuclear stalemate.
"Given that Trump's diplomatic and security team is comprised mostly of hawks, there are chances that a pre-emptive strike could be discussed as a solution (to the North's nuclear issue), though we cannot say that the likelihood is high that it will be actually put into action," he said.
In the event that a pre-emptive strike option is discussed, he said it would draw strong condemnation from the North and heighten tensions on the Korean Peninsula, posing a "challenge" to the Seoul government in keeping things under control.
Lee pointed out the deepening friction between the U.S. and China coupled with the growing voice from hardliners in Washington could end up increasing China's influence on Pyongyang and make it hard to enlist cooperation from Beijing on the nuclear front.
The researcher said that the Seoul government should recognize that it has to take the initiative and endeavor to improve inter-Korean relations. He underlined the need for opening communication channels with the North.
"Along with strengthening the South Korea-U.S. alliance and increasing security cooperation among South Korea, the U.S. and Japan to beef up deterrence and toughening sanctions through the U.N. against the North, there is a need to launch an unofficial channel through which dialogue can be opened with the North," the IFANS researcher said.
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