01/12/2012 05:00 GMT | Updated 01/12/2012 05:26 GMT

North Korea Announce Plan To Test Long-Range Rocket In December

North Korea has announced it will attempt to launch a rocket later this month, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KNCA), in what has been interpreted as an attempt to rattle the Obama administration and influence the upcoming South Korean election.

The proposed test will be the latest in a series of trials by the country, most recently a failed effort in April, and will increase already strained diplomatic tensions between North and South Korea, the latter of which is due to hold presidential elections on 19 December.

The launch will also alarm the United States, with Washington insistent that the trials are a cover for the testing of weaponised long-range missile technology, which would represent a breach of the United Nations ban on ballistic missile tests in North Korea.

However, analysts are suggesting the rocket launch could also be a deliberate attempt to stoke controversy, test the Obama administration and influence the South Korean election.

The country's last rocket, launched in April, above, collapsed shortly after launch

The country's previous rockets launches have been consistent failures - April's rocket managed to fly a short distance before collapsing off the coast of the peninsula.

However, an anonymous spokesperson for the Korean Committee for Space Technology told KNCA that scientists had "analysed the mistakes" of previous rockets.

This month's launch will carry a polar-orbiting earth observation satellite, according to the Associated Press.

Korea plan to launch a Unha-3 class of rocket which is yet to be successfully tested by the country.

December's test will be the second under Kim Jong Un

Saturday's announcement had been anticipated by the international community, with a UN Security Council committee warning the country against such a test earlier this week - although some analysts claimed the preparations may have been a bluff "intended to be a signal rather than signs of an imminent launch".

On Wednesday, satellite photos suggested that the country was preparing for another launch. Photographs taken by DigitalGlobe, satellite operators who supply imagery for US intelligence officials, showed increased activity at the country's Sohae testing facility.

A DigitalGlobe satellite image of the Sohae facility in North Korea

As reported by Reuters, a DigiGlobe statement, read: "Given the observed level of activity noted, of a new tent, trucks, people and numerous portable fuel/oxidizer tanks, should North Korea desire - it could possibly conduct its fifth satellite launch event during the next three weeks.”

If carried out, the December launch will be the second under the fledgling leadership of Kim Jong Un, who succeeded his father Kim Jong Il less than a year ago.

North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons has long been criticised by the United States, who say such a move would be a threat to Asian and world security.


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