Mar 27, 2012 | 21:45 GMT

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North Korea's Planned Satellite Launch

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North Korea will undertake a third attempt at placing a satellite in orbit sometime between April 12 and April 16. The attempted launch will take place at its Sohae (West Sea) Satellite Launching Station in Cholsan county, North Pyongan province, near the China-North Korea border. Prior satellite launch attempts were carried out from the Donghae (East Sea) launch platform, also known as the Musudan launch facility, on North Korea's east coast. The flight path of Pyongyang's first two attempted launches took the missiles over Japan, creating political and security concerns and led to accusations by other countries that the North was testing long-range missile technology under the guise of satellite launches. Launches from the new facility will fly in a more southerly direction, taking them primarily over open water through much of their planned flight. North Korea has filed reports indicating the splashdown of the first stage will take place between South Korea and China's Shandong Peninsula, and the second stage will splash down off the east coast of the Philippines. International criticism of the current launch plan has been strong, despite North Korea notifying the United States in 2011 before the death of former leader Kim Jong Il of a planned launch to mark the centenary of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung's birth, Pyongyang's February agreement to place a moratorium on nuclear and missile developments and tests — Pyongyang insists the current launch is a space launch, not a missile test, and thus not subject to the moratorium — and filing the flight path with the appropriate international agencies a month before the launch. For the North, this launch is primarily for domestic purposes, highlighting the technological achievements of the isolated state to its own people and reinforcing the importance of the Kim dynasty in its leadership role. Though Pyongyang does not see such a launch as anathema to its February commitments and its intent to pursue further nuclear talks within the six-party context, the planned launch has complicated any additional engagement from the other parties, at least for the time being.

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