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N. Korea defies critics, challenges South with rocket plan
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Dec 2, 2012


N. Korea notifies Japan of rocket path: report
Seoul (AFP) Dec 2, 2012 - North Korea has notified neighbours including Japan of the trajectory of the rocket it plans to launch this month, a report said Sunday, after international condemnation of the move by the nuclear-armed state.

The communist North announced on Saturday it would launch a rocket sometime between December 10 and 22 -- its second long-range rocket launch this year after a much-hyped but botched attempt in April.

Washington and Seoul urged Pyongyang to scrap the launch while Tokyo reportedly postponed talks due next week with North Korea and ordered its military to prepare to shoot down the rocket if it goes over Japan.

"The North has notified aviation authorities in nations including Japan that could come under potential danger ... of the timing and expected path (of the rocket)," Yonhap news agency quoted an unnamed senior Seoul official as saying.

China and the Philippines were also likely to have been notified, it added.

The North said Saturday the rocket would blast off "southward" from its Sohae Space Centre in the country's northwest.

"A safe flight path has been chosen so that parts of the carrier rocket that might fall during the launch process would not affect neighbouring countries," it said.

It added Pyongyang would "fully comply" with relevant international rules for the launch, which some analysts said was aimed at stirring patriotism and support for the country's young, inexperienced ruler Kim Jong-Un.

Pyongyang also repeated its claim made during its April launch that the rocket was aimed at promoting "the use of space for peaceful purposes" by placing a polar-orbiting earth observation satellite into orbit.

But the US and its allies view the launch as a disguised test for an inter-continental ballistic missile banned under UN resolutions triggered by Pyongyang's two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

North Korea's new rocket launch plans are a dramatic gesture of defiance towards the international community, and a major challenge to the winner of South Korea's upcoming presidential elections, analysts say.

Pyongyang announced Saturday it was preparing to carry out its second long-range rocket launch of the year -- ostensibly aimed at placing a satellite in orbit -- following a much-hyped but failed attempt in April.

The announcement was made in the face of a UN Security Council warning just days before that going ahead with the launch would be "extremely inadvisable"

The United States and its key Asian military allies, South Korea and Japan, insist the launch is a disguised ballistic missile test that violates UN resolutions triggered by Pyongyang's two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

Professor Yang Moo-Jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul warned that North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-Un were embarking on a high-stakes game of brinkmanship with the international community.

The launch, and in particular a successful launch, would likely draw sanctions, either from individual countries or concerned nations acting as a bloc.

"The North then would react strongly, probably upping its nuclear activity and possibly carrying out a third nuclear test," Yang said. "And so we get into a vicious circle of escalating tensions."

Both of North Korea's previous nuclear tests were held one to three months after missile tests.

Condemnation of the North's plans to launch a rocket between December 10 and 22 was rapid, with both the United States and South Korea denouncing what they termed a "highly provocative" act.

"Devoting scarce resources to the development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles will only further isolate and impoverish North Korea," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Tokyo said it was postponing talks between senior Japanese and North Korean diplomats scheduled to take place in Beijing this week.

The North's announcement comes at a time of transition for four of the countries involved in the stalled six-country talks on North Korea.

Japan will hold a general election on December 16, while South Korea will elect a new president on December 19

China, North Korea's main source of economic aid, has just completed its once-in-a-decade transition to a new leadership, and US President Barack Obama is preparing to start on his second term in office.

The launch window provided by Pyongyang also coincides with the one-year anniversary of leader Kim Jong-Un's assumption of power following the death of his father Kim Jong-Il on December 17.

The potential political impact is particularly strong for South Korea, where the two main presidential candidates have both signalled the need for greater engagement with Pyongyang.

Analysts say the ruling conservative party candidate Park Geun-Hye, daughter of the late former military strongman Park Chung-Hee, is most likely to benefit if a rocket launch pushes voter sentiment towards a harder line with the North.

"The launch will make more South Koreans feel disappointed and disillusioned about the North... which eventually helps Park," said Baek Seung-Joo of the Korea Institute of Defence Analyses.

Although Park has expressed a willingness to build bridges with Pyongyang, her party is seen as the more hawkish, especially compared to the opposition Democratic United Party of her liberal rival Moon Jae-In.

"Even if Park really wants reconciliation with the North, she will get little backing from her party and main constituents," said Paik Hak-Soon, a senior analyst with the Sejong Institute think tank.

"So she faces a really tough road ahead in cross-border ties for the next five years," Paik told AFP.

Moon is best known as a top aide to former president Roh Moo-Hyun, whose administration had continued the "sunshine policy" of engagement and aid to North Korea pioneered by his predecessor Kim Dae-Jung.

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NUKEWARS
North Korea announces December rocket launch
Seoul (AFP) Dec 01, 2012
North Korea announced Saturday it will launch a rocket later this month, triggering condemnation from the US and racking up tensions with South Korea which is just days from a presidential election. It will be the North's second long-range rocket launch this year following a much-hyped but failed attempt in April. In a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the Korea ... read more


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