Published December 03, 2012
South Korean politicians say that North Korea is attempting to influence the outcome of their presidential elections by attempting to launch a long-range rocket two days before.
The Wall Street Journal reports that South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said North Korea "has continuously tried to intervene in our elections," but that a launch "wouldn't have any huge impact," in an interview released Sunday.
The South Korean presidential elections will be held on December 19, and North Korea plans to launch its multistage rocket sometime from Dec. 10 to 22. This is also around the one-year anniversary of the death of the country's longtime leader, Kim Jong Il.
In announcing the launch, North Korea called it "true to the behests of leader Kim Jong Il."
Both candidates in South Korea's election, Park Geun-hye of the ruling New Frontier Party and Moon Jae-in of the Democratic United Party, joined their government and many around the world in urging North Korea to drop the plan.
North Korea's state media has for months been criticizing South Korea's conservative ruling party, in an apparent effort to boost liberal politicians who favor a more open-minded approach to Pyongyang, including financial outreach and diplomatic engagement.
Russia also urged North Korea Monday to not go ahead with the plan, saying the launch would violate restrictions imposed by the U.N. Security Council.
North Korea announced its planned launch Saturday, a defiant move just eight months after a failed April bid was widely condemned as a violation of a United Nations ban against developing its nuclear and missile programs.
Following North Korea's announcement, the U.S. State Department echoed a similar statement it made in April calling the attempt "highly provocative."
"A North Korean 'satellite' launch would be a highly provocative act that threatens peace and security in the region," Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokesman said in a statement.
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. The announcement by North Korea's space agency followed speculation overseas about stepped-up activity at North Korea's west coast launch pad captured in satellite imagery.
A spokesman for North Korea's Korean Committee for Space Technology said scientists have "analyzed the mistakes" made in the failed April launch and improved the precision of its Unha rocket and Kwangmyongsong satellite, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
KCNA said the launch was a request of late leader Kim Jong Il, whose Dec. 17, 2011, death North Koreans are expected to mark with some fanfare. The space agency said the rocket would be mounted with a polar-orbiting Earth observation satellite, and maintained its right to develop a peaceful space program.
Washington considers North Korea's rocket launches to be veiled covers for tests of technology for long-range missiles designed to strike the United States, and such tests are banned by the U.N.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.