U.S. officials, academics and other experts point to North Korea as one of the top global security concerns in 2014.
The Center for Preventive Action, which is affiliated with the Council on Foreign Relations, in a report on Dec. 19 titled "Preventive Priorities Survey 2014," said a North Korean provocation or instability in the Stalinist country will be one of the most "urgent concerns" next year.
The annual report is based on a survey on 1,200 U.S. government officials, academics and other experts.
Among top-tier priorities, a North Korean crisis ranks fourth after the civil war in Syria, violence and instability in Afghanistan and political instability in Jordan due to the influx of refugees from Syria.
The center ranks the likelihood of a North Korean nuclear crisis as "moderate," but its impact could be "high."
"North Korea ranks high on the survey because of the nuclear test it conducted in February of this year, as well as U.S. estimates that it has enough plutonium to produce five nuclear weapons," the report said. "Also of great concern is North Korea's internal political instability. For example, since the survey was taken, Jang Song-taek, the uncle of leader Kim Jong-un and formerly the second most powerful man in the country, was executed."
Among second-tier concerns were deepening conflict between China and Japan over the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands and conflicts between China and Southeast Asia over territorial rights in the South China Sea.