North Korea irked the international community Saturday by announcing a rocket launch in late December to commemorate the death anniversary of Kim Jong-il, its dictator for decades. The action is seen as a show of strength by his son Kim Jong-un after a year in charge.
The New York Times reports that the United States and its allies see the rocket launch as a test of ballistic technology that could one day be used to deliver a nuclear weapon. Kim Jong-un ordered a launch in April but that rocket disintegrated before reaching orbit.
Pyongyang says the launch will take place between Dec. 10 and Dec. 22, which covers the South Korea elections taking place Dec. 19. North Korea said the rocket would take a “safe flight path” and promises its neighbors no debris is expected to fall on them.
“The United Nations Security Council made clear in April that any attempts by North Korea to launch a satellite using ballistic missile technology would be a serious violation,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement reported by Bloomberg News. “We therefore call on North Korean authorities to abandon this plan. Failure to do so must lead to a further response by the international community, and will damage the prospects for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.”
A spokesperson from the South Korean government told Bloomberg North Korea’s decision to launch a rocket is a “full frontal challenge” to the international community, while another analyst said North Korea “is trying to make up for the failure of the April rocket launch and thereby solidify new leader Kim Jong-un’s rule.”
The rocket test in April was also criticized by the United Nations, but China's support makes it difficult for the U.N. to effectively impose sanctions on the country, notes the Chicago Tribune.
North Korea has a population of 23 million ill-fed people and a military with 1.2 million soldiers. The coming launch is also seen as a move to boost the troops’ morale after the embarrassment in April.