North Korea may delay controversial rocket launch

December 10, 2012 - 12:41:47 am

SEOUL: North Korea said it may delay a much-criticised rocket launch originally scheduled for as early as today, as analysts say its efforts to mark a key anniversary were hampered by technical troubles.

Scientists were “now seriously examining the issue of readjusting the launching time of the satellite for some reasons”, the Korean Committee of Space Technology said in a statement carried by state media yesterday. 

The committee gave no further details.

In a report late yeserday, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing a government official in Seoul, said the North had stopped all preparations at the launch site in the country’s northwest.

Analysts said technical problems or snow, rather than overseas political pressure, are likely to be behind the delay in what the North calls a satellite launch, originally scheduled for between December 10 and 22.

Some said the North’s new leader, Kim Jong-Un, may have been rushing the blast-off in a bid to mark the first anniversary of the death of his father and ex-ruler Kim Jong-Il on December 17. 

The impoverished but nuclear-armed nation insists the long-range rocket launch — its second this year after a much-hyped but botched mission in April — is for peaceful scientific purposes. 

But the United States, and allies South Korea and Japan, say Pyongyang plans a disguised ballistic missile test that violates UN resolutions triggered by its two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

“Sunday’s announcement was only made by scientific authorities, meaning the most likely reason is either technical issues or weather conditions,” said Jang Yong-Seok from the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University.

A US think-tank, the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, said on Friday that preparations may have been delayed by heavy snow.

There had been “abnormal signs” indicating technical problems in launch preparations since Saturday afternoon, said Yonhap, citing an unidentified senior Seoul official.