North Korea plans December rocket launch

North Korea Plans Long-Range Rocket Launch

North Korea Plans Long-Range Rocket Launch

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Dec. 1 2012 3:55 PM

North Korea Plans To Launch a Long-Range Rocket Into Space This Month

A North Korean soldier stands guard in front of an Unha-3 rocket at Tangachai -ri space center on April 8

Photo by PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images

North Korea is planning to launch a long-range rocket into space between Dec. 10 and Dec. 22, the country's official news agency said Saturday. The move would come mere months after an April launch became an embarrassing disaster for Pyongyang when a rocket disintegrated within 90 seconds after liftoff, points out the Washington Post. The move is bound to increase tensions with South Korea, where a closely contested presidential election is scheduled for Dec. 19. Yet it seems more likely the date is really to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the death of longtime leader Kim Jong Il on Dec. 17.

Although North Korea insists it will send a “polar-orbiting Earth observation satellite” for “peaceful scientific and technological” purposes, others see it as a thinly veiled attempt to test technology for intercontinental ballistic missiles. CNN points out North Korea analysts are speculating that young leader Kim Jung Un may be under internal pressure from political hardliners to send a defiant message to the world. He may also be feeling pressure from an internal propaganda campaign that claims North Korea will become a “strong and prosperous nation” by 2012, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.