* North Korea to launch satellite between Dec. 10 and Dec.
* Second launch this year after April's failure
* Launch comes as S.Korea holds polls, Seoul says it is
* Chinese Communist Party delegation held talks with
N.Korean leader on Friday
SEOUL, Dec 1 (Reuters) - North Korea is to carry out its
second rocket launch of 2012 as its youthful leader Kim Jong-un
flexes his muscles a year after his father's death, in a move
that will likely heighten diplomatic tensions and draw criticism
North Korea's state news agency announced the decision to
launch another space satellite on Saturday, just a day after Kim
met a senior delegation from China's Communist Party in the
North Korean capital of Pyongyang.
China, under new leadership, is North Korea's only major
political backer and has continually urged peace on the Korean
peninsula, where the North and South remain technically at war
after an armistice, rather than a peace treaty, ended the
No comment on the planned launch was immediately available
from Beijing's foreign ministry.
Seoul's foreign ministry said in a statement that the move
was a "grave provocation". Japan's Kyodo news agency said Prime
Minister Yoshihiko Noda had ordered ministries to be on alert
for the launch.
"North Korea wants to tell China that it is an independent
state by staging the rocket launch and it wants to see if the
United States will drop its hostile policies," said Chang
Yong-seok, a senior researcher at the Institute for Peace
Affairs at Seoul National University.
North Korea is banned from conducting missile or
nuclear-related activities under United Nations resolutions
imposed after Pyongyang carried out nuclear tests, although it
says its rockets are used to put satellites into orbit for
Washington and Seoul believe the isolated, impoverished
state is testing long-range missile technology with the aim of
developing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of
carrying a nuclear warhead.
Pyongyang's threats are aimed, in part, at winning
concessions and aid from Washington, analysts say.
POLITICS AND ANNIVERSARIES
The failed April rocket launch took place to celebrate the
100th anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il
Sung and the latest test will take place close to the Dec. 17
date of the death of former leader Kim Jong-il.
It will also come as South Korea gears up for a Dec. 19
presidential election in a vote that pits a supporter of closer
engagement with Pyongyang against the daughter of South Korean
dictator Park Chung-hee.
The April test was condemned by the United Nations, although
taking action against the North is hard as China refuses to
endorse further sanctions against Pyongyang.
North Korea is already one of the most heavily sanctioned
states on earth thanks to its nuclear programme.
Pyongyang has few tools to pressure the outside world to
take it seriously due to its diplomatic isolation and its puny
The state that Kim Jong-un inherited last December after the
death of his father boasts a 1.2 million-strong military, but
its population of 23 million, many malnourished, supports an
economy worth just $40 billion annually in purchasing power
parity terms, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
"The North's calculation may be that they have little to
lose by going ahead with it at this point," said Baek Seung-joo
of the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul.
Baek said the test planned for December would likely be no
more successful in launching a satellite than the April one that
crashed into the sea between China and North Korea after flying
just 120 km.
"Kim Jong-un may be taking a big gamble trying to come back
from the humiliating failure in April and in the process trying
to raise the morale for the military," Baek said.
North Korea's space agency said on Saturday that it had
worked on "improving the reliability and precision of the
satellite and carrier rocket" since April's launch.