The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

December 1, 2012

North Korea says it will launch long-range rocket soon

(Continued)

Six-nation negotiations on dismantling North Korea's nuclear program in exchange for aid fell apart in early 2009.

In Seoul, South Korean officials have accused North Korea of trying to influence its presidential election with what they consider provocations meant to put pressure on voters and on the United States as the North seeks concessions. Conservative Park Geun-hye, the daughter of late President Park Chung-hee, is facing liberal Moon Jae-in in the South Korean presidential vote. Polls show the candidates in a close race.

Some analysts, however, question whether North Korean scientists have corrected whatever caused the misfire of its last rocket.

"Preparing for a launch less than a year after a failure calls into question whether the North could have analyzed and fixed whatever went wrong," David Wright, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote on the organization's website this week.

The United States has criticized North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles as a threat to Asian and world security. In 2009, North Korea conducted rocket and nuclear tests within months of Obama taking office.

North Korea under its young leader has pledged to bolster its nuclear arsenal unless Washington scraps what the North calls a "hostile" policy. North Korea maintains that it is building bombs to defend itself against what it sees as a U.S. nuclear threat in the region.

This year is the centennial of the birth of national founder Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of Kim Jong Un. According to North Korean propaganda, 2012 is meant to put the North on a path toward a "strong, prosperous and great nation."

"North Korea appears to be under pressure to redeem its April launch failure before the year of the 'strong, prosperous and great nation' ends," said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Dongguk University in Seoul.

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