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North Korea to try rocket launch again

| Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, 7:24 p.m.
REUTERS
A soldier stands guard in front of a rocket sitting on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities in the northwest of Pyongyang in this April 8, 2012 file photo. North Korea will launch a satellite in mid-December, the official KCNA news agency quoted officials as saying on December 1, 2012. The satellite would be launched between December 10-22, it quoted a spokesman for the Korean Committee for Space Technology as saying. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/Files (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY TRANSPORT SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY)

North Korea announced Saturday that it will send a long-range rocket into space this month, trying to make up for a public-relations disaster in April when a much-hyped launch failed.

In the announcement attributed to a spokesman for the Korean Committee for Space Technology, North Korea said the rocket would carry a “polar-orbiting Earth observation satellite” for “peaceful scientific and technological” purposes.

Nonetheless, the launch is viewed as a defiant move for an impoverished country that is subject to a U.S. ban from developing nuclear and missile technology.

The timing — between Dec. 10 and 22, according to the announcement — coincides with several sensitive dates on the Korean calendar.

On Dec. 19, there is a closely contested presidential election in archrival South Korea that could be swayed by the rocket launch. Perhaps more important on the North Korean calendar, Dec. 17 marks the one-year anniversary of the death of longtime leader Kim Jong Il, who is believed to have ordered the launch.

A successful launch would be key to establishing the legitimacy of successor Kim Jong Un, the late dictator's son who is still in his 20s.

North Korea had been in the midst of a propaganda campaign, claiming that it would become a “strong and prosperous nation” by 2012, which happens to be the centennial of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the dynasty's founder.

“It seems like they are trying to keep up with their declaration that the year 2012 will be the first year of ‘strong and prosperous nation,'” said Koh Yoo-hwan, North Korean studies professor at South Korea's Dongguk University. “Because that had failed, they will try and finish the project within this year.”

The earlier launch was an embarrassment for the regime, which had invited foreign television crews into North Korea to publicize the feat.

But the rocket flew for less than two minutes before splashing into the Yellow Sea, close enough to South Korea that its intelligence services were able to recover pieces to analyze.

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