NorthKorea plans Dec. missile test

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SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea announced Saturday that it would attempt to launch a long-range rocket in mid-December, 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.

The launch, set for Dec. 10 to 22, is likely to heighten already strained tensions with Washington and Seoul as the United States prepares for Barack Obama's second term as U.S. president and South Korea holds its own 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 by North Korea's space agency followed speculation overseas about stepped-up activity at North Korea's west coast launchpad 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 the 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 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.

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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 United Nations.

North Korea has capable short- and medium-range missiles, but long-range launches in 1998, 2006, 2009 and in April ended in failure. North Korea is not known to have succeeded in mounting an atomic bomb on a missile but is believed to have enough weaponized plutonium for at least a half-dozen bombs, according to U.S. experts, and in 2010 revealed a uranium enrichment program that could provide a second source of material for nuclear weapons.

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