North Korea looks set to delay controversial rocket launch

SEOUL Sat Dec 8, 2012 1:24pm EST

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea will likely postpone the launch of a long-range rocket, state news agency KCNA said on Saturday, but gave no reasons for delaying the plan which has been widely condemned by countries including Russia and the United States.

KCNA quoted a spokesman for the country's space agency, which plans to send a satellite into space on the rocket, as saying it was "seriously examining the issue of readjusting the launching time of the satellite".

North Korea, which planned to launch the rocket between December 10 and December 22, is banned from carrying out any missile or nuclear related tests by United Nations resolutions imposed in 2006 and 2009 after it conducted nuclear tests.

The latest launch had been scheduled to take place around the first anniversary of the death of North Korea's former leader Kim Jong-il but would also have coincided with December elections in Japan and South Korea.

The planned launch has been condemned by Japan and South Korea, as well as the United States and Russia. China, the North's only major diplomatic ally, has expressed "deep concern" it could raise tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The rocket was scheduled to pass between the Korean Peninsula and China, with a second stage splashing down off the Philippines before launching the satellite into orbit.

An earlier launch attempt ended in failure in April when the mission was aborted just a few minutes into its flight.

Critics say North Korea's rocket program is aimed at developing an ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.

(Reporting by Choonsik Yoo and David Chance; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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