North Korea

Technical problems delayed launch of North Korean missile, experts say

South Korean experts doubt political pressure played a part in Pyongyang postponing blast-off

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 December, 2012, 3:17am


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Technical problems rather than overseas political pressure were probably behind the delay of a much-criticised rocket launch by Pyongyang, South Korean analysts said yesterday.

Scientists were "now seriously examining the issue of readjusting the launching time of the satellite", the Korean Committee of Space Technology said in a statement carried by state media.

The committee gave no further details.

Analysts said technical problems or snow might have caused the delay in what the North calls a satellite launch, originally scheduled for between today and December 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 which falls 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 preparations might have been delayed by heavy snow.

There had been "abnormal signs" indicating technical problems in launch preparations since Saturday afternoon, said South Korea's Yonhap news agency, citing an unidentified senior Seoul official.

"It looks like the problem is a technical one," he said.

Pyongyang has apparently "rushed too fast" to time the launch to mark the December 17 anniversary in a bid to drum up support for the young and inexperienced Kim, said Yang Moo-Jin of Seoul's University of North Korean Studies.

"It showed how desperate and time-pressed the North was to showcase its scientific breakthrough to its people on the key anniversary and subsequently rally support for the new leader," Yang said.

The North would have made the announcement of a potential delay via "a top party or military organ," instead of the space committee, if it was intended to be a concession to the international pressure, he added.