North Korea has announced plans for a rocket test under the guise of a satellite launch. The plan was condemned by the international community as provocative, amid fears there are less-peaceful intentions.
Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency racked up tensions with the announcement of its plan, ostensibly to launch a nonmilitary satellite, on Saturday, with warnings issued by South Korea, the United Nations and the United States.
The US State Department called any such plans "highly provocative." "Devoting scarce resources to the development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles will only further isolate and impoverish North Korea," spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.
The Korean Committee for Space Technology was reported as saying that the launch, a follow-up on a failed attempt in April this year, would take place between December 10 and 22.
The mission was described as a purely "peaceful, scientific" undertaking with the aim of putting a working satellite into space.
Seoul and its allies claim, however, that the launches are disguised tests for a long-range ballistic missile that could eventually be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Such a test would constitute an infringement of UN resolutions that were passed following Pyongyang's two previous nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
The South Korean Foreign Ministry called the planning of the launch a "deeply provocative act."
"We sternly warn if the North goes ahead with the launch, it will face strong countermeasures from the international community," Saturday's statement from the ministry said.
The UN Security Council warned on Friday that it would be "extremely inadvisable" for Pyongyang to go ahead with another launch.
The announcement follows weeks of intense speculation after satellite image analysis suggested that a fresh launch was being prepared at the North's Sohae satellite launch station.
rc/ccp (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
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