A soldier stands guard in front of a rocket sitting on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities in the northwest of Pyongyang in this April 8, 2012 file photo. (Reuters)
North Korea said Saturday it will launch a long-range rocket between Dec. 10 and Dec. 22, a move likely to heighten already strained tensions with Washington and Seoul ahead of a South Korean presidential election on Dec. 19.
This would be North Korea's second launch attempt under leader Kim Jong Un, who took power following his father Kim Jong Il's death nearly a year ago. The announcement comes several weeks after President Barack Obama was elected to a second term in the United States and ahead of his January inauguration.
Washington considers North Korea's rocket tests to be veiled covers for tests of long-range missile technology banned by the United Nations.
An unnamed spokesman for the Korean Committee for Space Technology said North Korea had "analyzed the mistakes" made in a failed April launch and improved the precision of the rocket and satellite, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. The April launch broke up shortly after liftoff, but quickly drew condemnation from the United Nations, Washington, Seoul and other capitals.
The North's statement said a rocket carrying a polar-orbiting earth observation satellite will blast off southward from its northwest coastal space center.
The United States has criticized North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles as a threat to Asian and world security.
North Korea under its young leader has pledged to bolster its nuclear arsenal unless Washington scraps what Pyongyang calls a hostile policy.