BEIJING: North Korea has announced 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 seen as a defiant move for an impoverished country that is already subject to a US ban from developing nuclear and missile technology.
The timing - between December 10 and 22, according to the announcement - coincides with several sensitive dates on the Korean calendar. On December 19 there is a closely contested presidential election in South Korea that could be swayed by the rocket launch. Perhaps more important on the North Korean calendar, December 17 marks the one-year anniversary of the death of longtime leader Kim Jong-il.
A successful launch is also seen as key to establishing the legitimacy of successor Kim Jong-un, the late dictator's son.
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 publicise the feat.
However, the rocket flew for less than two minutes before splashing into the Yellow Sea.
''The purpose of a rocket launch is for domestic politics,'' said another South Korean specialist, Baek Seung-joo at the Korea Institute for Defence Analyses. ''This is their chance to recover from embarrassment in April, and also to strengthen the Kim Jong-un centred leadership.''
Los Angeles Times