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Region on Edge as North Korea Plans Rocket Launch

PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- The official North Korean state media carried a statement by the spokesman for the Korean Committee of Space Technology on Monday that confirmed that scientists and technicians have “found a technical deficiency in the first-stage control engine module of the rocket carrying the satellite and decided to extend the satellite launch up to December 29th.”

The North Korean media had suggested on Sunday that a delay could be possible, although they hadn’t clarified why.

However, satellite images on Saturday have revealed that a new third-stage booster was delivered to the launch pad, and experts predict that the launch will probably take place after the booster has been installed.

North Korea has received international condemnation for their rocket launch, which many believe to be a cover for long-range missile technology.  The U.S. has mobilized warships in the Asia-Pacific region to monitor and possibly repudiate the launch, while South Korea has upped their defense level to “Watchcon 2,” which is issued when there is possibly a vital threat to the nation.  South Korea usually occupies a “Watchcon 3″ status due to their ongoing war with the North.

This planned rocket launch is also seen to be a possible political statement as it coincides closely with the South Korean presidential election, which will be held on Dec. 19.

For presidential candidate Park Geun-hye in particular, North Korea holds particular meaning due to her past.  Her father, Park Chung-hee, served as the South Korean president for 16 years, and was the target of many assassination attempts by the North.

Park was personally involved with North Korea and politics since she was 16, when a North Korean agent killed her mother in a botched assassination attempt against her father.  Park then took over her mother’s duties as first lady until her father was assassinated by the chief of security in 1979.

North Korea’s prospective rocket launch is the second one this year, following a failed attempt in April that crashed after just a few minutes in the air.  This launch is seen as more likely to succeed after North Korea allegedly turned to outside sources in foreign countries for their rocket technology.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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