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SpaceX has resumed flights, launching a new Falcon 9 rocket, Iridium-1 NEXT, from the Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast.

It is the first mission by SpaceX since one of its vehicles exploded on the launch pad in September 2016.

The return to operations sees SpaceX start to renew what was the original global handheld satellite phone network, run by Iridium.

Lift-off took place at 09:54 local time on January 14.

A few minutes later, the first stage of the rocket landed successfully on a platform in the Pacific Ocean. An hour and 15 minutes after launch, the mission was complete with the Iridium payload safely in orbit.

Image source Flickr

SpaceX must now follow through with a steady but rapid series of further flights.

It has a long queue of customers all waiting for a ride to orbit – including NASA, the nation’s military, and multiple outfits in the commercial sector.

Iridium has six further missions it wants to complete with SpaceX inside the next 18 months.

On this flight were 10 spacecraft for the Iridium satellite voice and data company. The batch represents the first phase in the roll-out of Iridium’s NEXT constellation.

A total of 81 satellites have been ordered from the European manufacturer Thales Alenia Space to completely overhaul the original but now ageing network.

Matt Desch, chief executive officer of Iridium, said: “Today Iridium launches a new era in the history of our company and a new era in space as we start to deliver the next-generation of satellite communications.

“We have been working endless hours for the last eight years to get to this day, and to finally be here with 10 Iridium NEXT satellites successfully launched into low-Earth orbit is a fulfilling moment.”

Iridium-1 is famous for being the very first commercial company to provide global, hand-held satphone coverage, and supplying voice connections to anywhere on the planet is still very much part of its business.

Its network has increasingly been used to feed data from remote systems, such as pipelines, ocean buoys, and mining equipment.

Iridium-1 has become a big player in what is termed M2M, or “machine to machine” services. And SpaceX is banking on that market getting ever bigger as more and more systems are linked together.

US experts say North Korea appears to be upgrading one of its two rocket launch sites, perhaps in a move to test bigger rockets.

“Important progress” had been made at Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground since October 2012, the analysis from the 38 North website said.

Activities around the new launch pad also revealed possible evidence of assistance from Iran, it said.

Pyongyang used a three-stage rocket to put a satellite into space last year.

That launch – condemned by the UN as a banned test of missile technology – took place at the Sohae launch site.

But previous unsuccessful attempts in 2006 and 2009 took place at the Tonghae site, which is also known as Musudan-ri.

The analysis from 38 North, the website of the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Baltimore, was based on satellite imagery.

Construction of the new launch pad was continuing, it said, with images showing Pyongyang would be able to test rockets “perhaps three to four times the size of the Unha [launched in December 2012] when construction is completed, possibly in 2016”.

Two new design features were similar to those used at the Semnan Launch Complex in Iran, it said.

The images also confirmed activity at the old launch pad.

US experts say North Korea appears to be upgrading one of its two rocket launch sites, perhaps in a move to test bigger rockets

US experts say North Korea appears to be upgrading one of its two rocket launch sites, perhaps in a move to test bigger rockets

“That activity may be related to another round of modifications intended to support future launches of the Unha rocket or possibly another liquid-fuelled missile,” 38 North said, while cautioning that more information was needed.

North Korea last week conducted its third nuclear test, claiming to have successfully detonated a smaller but more powerful device than in previous tests.

The move drew immediate condemnation from the UN Security Council.

Observers fear North Korea is working towards creating a nuclear device small enough to fit on a long-range missile.

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North Korea confirms it has successfully carried out its third underground nuclear test, a move that has drawn international condemnation.

Pyongyang said the test involved a “miniaturized” device and was carried out in a “perfect manner”.

The confirmation came three hours after seismic activity was detected at North Korea’s nuclear test site.

President Barack Obama called for “swift” and “credible” international action in response.

He said the “provocative” nuclear test did not make North Korea more secure, adding that Washington would remain vigilant and steadfast in its defence commitments to its allies in Asia.

The United Nations had warned of “significant consequences” if Pyongyang went ahead.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the test as a “clear and grave violation” of UN resolutions and a “deeply destabilizing” provocation.

The Security Council is to hold an emergency meeting at 14:00 GMT on Tuesday in New York, diplomats say.

North Korea previously conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. It announced in January that it would conduct a third as a response to UN sanctions that were expanded after its December rocket launch.

Confirmation of the test came in a statement from state-run KCNA news agency.

“It was confirmed that the nuclear test that was carried out at a high level in a safe and perfect manner using a miniaturized and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force than previously did not pose any negative impact on the surrounding ecological environment,” KCNA said.

North Korea confirms it has successfully carried out its third underground nuclear test, a move that has drawn international condemnation

North Korea confirms it has successfully carried out its third underground nuclear test, a move that has drawn international condemnation

The claim to have tested a “miniaturized” device is likely to alarm observers. The US and North Korea’s neighbors fear Pyongyang’s ultimate goal is to produce a nuclear device small enough to fit on a long-range missile, something it is not yet believed to have mastered.

In December it put a satellite into space using a three-stage rocket – a move condemned by the UN as a banned test of missile technology.

North Korea said the nuclear test – which comes on the eve of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address – was to “to protect our national security and sovereignty against the reckless hostility of the United States”.

It is the first such test under new leader Kim Jong-un, who took over the leadership after his father Kim Jong-il died in December 2011.

Activity had been observed at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site for several months.

Seismic activity was then detected by monitoring agencies from several nations at 11:57 a.m. A shallow earthquake with a magnitude of 4.9 was recorded, the US Geological Survey said.

Both South Korea and Japan convened emergency meetings of their national security teams shortly afterwards.

“This is an unacceptable threat to the security of the Korean peninsula and north-east Asia, and a challenge to the whole international community,” South Korea’s presidential national security adviser Chun Young-woo said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his government would “consider every possible way to address this issue”.

The US, South Korea and Japan had all warned Pyongyang not to go ahead with the test. China, North Korea’s closest ally and biggest trading partner, had also called for restraint.

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North Korea has posted a video on YouTube depicting an American city resembling New York engulfed in flames after an apparent missile attack, it emerged today.

The video was uploaded on YouTube by the North’s official website, Uriminzokkiri, which distributes news and propaganda from the state media, as the country prepares to conduct its third nuclear test.

The footage is shot as a dream sequence, with a young man seeing himself on board a North Korean space shuttle launched into orbit by the same type of rocket Pyongyang successfully tested in December.

As the shuttle circles the globe – to the tune of We Are the World – the video zooms in on countries below, including a joyfully re-unified Korea.

In contrast, the focus then switches to a city – shrouded in the U.S. flag – under apparent missile attack with its skyscrapers, including what appears to be the Empire State Building, either on fire or in ruins.

“Somewhere in the United States, black clouds of smoke are billowing,” runs the caption across the screen.

“It seems that the nest of wickedness is ablaze with the fire started by itself,” it added.

The video ends with the young man concluding that his dream will “surely come true”.

“Despite all kinds of attempts by imperialists to isolate and crush us… never will anyone be able to stop the people marching toward a final victory,” it said.

North Korea has posted a video on YouTube depicting an American city resembling New York engulfed in flames after an apparent missile attack

North Korea has posted a video on YouTube depicting an American city resembling New York engulfed in flames after an apparent missile attack

The video emerged as South Korea’s U.N. ambassador said today that a North Korean nuclear test “seems to be imminent”.

The North is expected to conduct its nuclear test as a defiant response to UN sanctions imposed after its December rocket launch.

It comes at a time of tension resulting from North Korea’s announcement that it would carry out more rocket launches and nuclear test after it was censured by the United Nations Security Council over the launch of a rocket in December.

North Korea declared a boycott of all dialogue aimed at ending its nuclear programme.

Ambassador Kim Sook said there are “very busy activities” taking place at North Korea’s nuclear test site “and everybody’s watching”.

Kim Sook told a press conference that in the event of a nuclear test, he expects the U.N. Security Council to respond with “firm and strong measures”.

North Korea announced last month that it would conduct a nuclear test to protest Security Council sanctions toughened after a satellite launch in December that the U.S. and others say was a disguised test of banned missile technology.

The council ordered North Korea in the sanctions resolution to refrain from a nuclear test or face “significant action”.

South Korea joined the Security Council in January and holds the rotating presidency this month. Kim Sook said he was speaking as South Korea’s ambassador, not as the council president.

He said that during negotiations on the latest sanctions resolution all 15 council members – including North Korean ally China – were unified.

“They are very firm and resolute and I would expect very firm and strong measures to be taken in terms of format as well as in substance once they go ahead with such provocation as a nuclear test,” Kim Sook said.

Pyongyang’s two previous nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009, both occurred after it was condemned by the United Nations for rocket launches.

The sanctions, aimed at trying to derail the country’s rogue nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, bar North Korea from testing or using nuclear or ballistic missile technology, and from importing or exporting material for these programs.

The latest sanctions resolution again demanded that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons program and cease launches.

It slapped sanctions on North Korean companies and government agencies, including its space agency and several individuals.

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North Korea has warned of “substantial and high-profile important state measures”, days after announcing plans for a third nuclear test.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made the statement during a meeting with top security officials, state media said.

The reports did not give details of what the measures might entail.

North Korea has issued a series of warnings since the UN tightened sanctions against the country this week over a recent rocket test.

On Thursday, North Korea said it would proceed with a “high-level” nuclear test in a move aimed at the US, its “arch-enemy”.

A day later, it promised “physical counter-measures” against South Korea if it participated in the UN sanctions regime.

North Korea has warned of substantial and high-profile important state measures, days after announcing plans for a third nuclear test

North Korea has warned of substantial and high-profile important state measures, days after announcing plans for a third nuclear test

North Korean state media reported on Sunday that Kim Jong-un had “advanced specific tasks to the officials concerned”.

The latest warning came after Rodong Sinmun, a state newspaper, carried an essay on Saturday saying that a nuclear test was “the demand of the people”.

“It is the people’s demand that we should do something, not just a nuclear test, but something even greater. The UN Security Council has left us no room for choice.”

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests in the past, in 2006 and 2009. It has given no time-frame for its third test.

The UN resolution, passed on Tuesday, was proposed by the US and backed by China, North Korea’s closest ally and biggest trading partner.

It was a response to a rocket launch in December that the US, Japan and South Korea say was a test of banned long-range missile technology.

The three-stage rocket put a satellite into space in what was Pyongyang’s first successful test of such technology.

The UN resolution pledged “significant action” if North Korea carried out a third nuclear test.

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North Korea has announced it is proceeding with plans for a third nuclear test.

In a statement carried by KCNA news agency, the top military body said the “high-level nuclear test” and more long-range rocket launches were aimed at its “arch-enemy”, the US.

The statement gave no time-frame for the test. North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009.

The move comes two days after a UN Security Council resolution condemned Pyongyang’s recent rocket launch.

The Security Council also expanded sanctions against the communist country following its December launch, which was seen by the US and North Korea’s neighbors as a banned test of long-range missile technology.

North Korea said the rocket was solely aimed at putting a satellite into space for peaceful purposes.

The statement, which came from North Korea’s National Defence Commission, hit out at the resolution as “illegal”, before pledging a response.

“We do not hide that the various satellites and long-range rockets we will continue to launch, as well as the high-level nuclear test we will proceed with, are aimed at our arch-enemy, the United States,” KCNA quoted it as saying.

“Settling accounts with the US needs to be done with force, not with words,” it added.

North Korea has announced it is proceeding with plans for a third nuclear test

North Korea has announced it is proceeding with plans for a third nuclear test

Recent reports from South Korean and US bodies which monitor North Korea’s nuclear test sites had said North Korea could be preparing for a third test.

Earlier on Thursday, a South Korean defence ministry spokesman said it appeared that North Korea was “ready to conduct a nuclear test at anytime if its leadership decides to go ahead”.

Regional neighbors, South Korea, China and Japan, and the US have urged it not to proceed.

“We hope they don’t do it, we call on them not to do it. It will be a mistake and a missed opportunity if they were to do it,” said Glyn Davies, the US special envoy on North Korea policy who is currently visiting Seoul.

“This is not a moment to increase tensions on the Korean Peninsula.”

A South Korean foreign ministry spokesman said Seoul deeply regretted the North Korean statement and “strongly” urged it not to go ahead.

Both North Korea’s previous nuclear tests followed long-range rocket launches.

If it were to go ahead, this would be the first nuclear test under Kim Jong-un, who took over the leadership after the death of his father Kim Jong-il in December 2011.

There was no explanation in the statement of what “high-level” test might mean.

Experts believe the two previous tests used plutonium as fissile material, but North Korea is also believed to have been working on a programme to produce highly-enriched uranium.

It is thought that North Korea is not yet able to make a nuclear device small enough to mount on a long-range missile, although the US believes that is Pyongyang’s ultimate goal.

North Korean nuclear tests:

  • Two underground nuclear tests have been carried out by North Korea, in 2006 and 2009
  • They were believed to have used plutonium, but experts believe the planned test could use highly-enriched uranium as the fissile material
  • Analysts say a new test tunnel has been prepared in Punggye-ri, the site of the previous tests
  • North Korea is thought to have enough nuclear material for a small number of bombs, but not the technology to make a nuclear warhead
  • Multiple rounds of multi-national talks have failed to categorically convince Pyongyang to commit to giving up its nuclear ambitions

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North Korean people have gathered in Pyongyang for a mass rally to celebrate Wednesday’s long-range rocket launch.

State television showed huge crowds cheering to mark the launch, which has been condemned by many nations as a banned test of missile technology.

South Korea, meanwhile, says its navy has retrieved debris from the rocket and will study it.

The first stage of the rocket fell west of the Korean peninsula. South Korea’s navy located it shortly afterwards.

It was North Korea’s first successful use of a three-stage rocket to put a satellite into orbit. North Korea said on Friday that more launches would go ahead.

The UN Security Council has condemned the launch, calling it a missile test that violated two UN resolutions banning Pyongyang from such activities passed after its nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

The US, South Korea and Japan – who believe North Korea is working to develop long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads – want action such as the strengthening of sanctions.

But China – North Korea’s main ally – says any UN response should be “conducive to peace” and avoid escalating tensions.

North Korean people have gathered in Pyongyang for a mass rally to celebrate Wednesday's long-range rocket launch

North Korean people have gathered in Pyongyang for a mass rally to celebrate Wednesday’s long-range rocket launch

In Pyongyang, state television showed pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the control room for the launch, and another of him celebrating with members of the military after it successfully went up.

It also broadcast images of ranks of North Koreans massed in central Pyongyang on Friday to listen to congratulatory speeches.

Kim Ki-nam, party secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, told crowds in Kim Il-sung Square that the satellite was “necessary for the building of our national economy”.

“This is an international trend and the justified independent right of our people,” he said.

“Any hostile forces cannot cling to the insistence that our satellite launch is a ballistic missile launch anymore.”

Ro Gwang-chol, vice-chief of the general staff of the army, said that every soldier in the North celebrated the moment and “have been full of delight and strong emotions”.

There was also much praise for the leader.

“This was achieved thanks to the Great Marshall Kim Jong-un’s endless loyalty, bravery and wisdom,” said Jang Chol, president of the State Academy of Sciences.

The rocket was launched from the North Korean coast early on Wednesday. South Korea says a fuel container was found where the first stage of the rocket separated.

“The Navy’s Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle retrieved the debris of the rocket’s first stage at 00:26 and was delivering it to the Second Command Fleet in Pyeongtaek,” Yonhap news agency quoted a defence ministry official as saying.

It would be “useful material for analysis”, another ministry spokesman said.

On Friday a statement from North Korea’s KCNA news agency said Kim Jong-un had called for more such launches.

North Korea “showed at home and abroad the unshakable stand… to exercise the country’s legitimate right to use space for peaceful purposes”, the KCNA statement quoted him as saying.

The US, meanwhile, said it was holding talks with key players on how to respond to the launch.

“We are working with both our six party partners and with our UN Security Council partners – China is in both of those categories – on a clear and credible response to what the North Koreans have done,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

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A North Korean animated female anchor appears exhilarated as she describes the rocket launch, which was reported by state media as the successful positioning of a weather satellite in space.

The video clip has been watched over 130,000 times on YouTube.

In the U.S., the White House labeled the rocket test a “highly provocative act that threatens regional security”.

North Korea’s Unha-3 rocket, named after the Korean word for “galaxy”, blasted off from the Sohae launch pad in Tongchang-ri, north-west of Pyongyang, yesterday.

Pride in the scientific advancement appeared to outweigh the fear of greater international punishment and isolation, with people dancing in the streets in Pyongyang as vans drove around announcing the news.

North Korean animated female anchor appears exhilarated as she describes the rocket launch, which was reported by state media as the successful positioning of a weather satellite in space

North Korean animated female anchor appears exhilarated as she describes the rocket launch, which was reported by state media as the successful positioning of a weather satellite in space

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North Korea has announced an apparently successful launch of a long-range rocket defying international warnings.

The rocket, launched at 09:49 local time, appears to have followed its planned trajectory, with stages falling in expected areas.

North Korea says a satellite has been placed in orbit; the US confirmed an object had been put into space.

South Korea, the US and Japan have condemned the launch as a disguised test of long-range missile technology.

A UN resolution passed in June 2009 after North Korea’s second nuclear test banned Pyongyang from ballistic missile tests.

The US called it a “highly provocative act that threatens regional security”, while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said it was a “clear violation” of the UN resolution.

Japan has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. Reports suggested this could take place later on Wednesday.

The launch comes a week ahead of the South Korean presidential election and roughly a year after the death of leader Kim Jong-il, on 17 December 2011.

The three-stage rocket was launched from a site on North Korea’s west coast.

“The launch of the second version of our Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite from the Sohae Space Centre… on December 12 was successful,” state news agency KCNA said.

“The satellite has entered the orbit as planned.”

The rocket had been scheduled to pass between the Korean peninsula and China, with a second stage coming down off the Philippines.

“The missile was tracked on a southerly azimuth [angle]. Initial indications are that the first stage fell into the Yellow Sea,” a North American Aerospace Defence Command (Norad) statement said.

“The second stage was assessed to fall into the Philippine Sea. Initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit.”

North Korea has announced an apparently successful launch of a long-range rocket defying international warnings

North Korea has announced an apparently successful launch of a long-range rocket defying international warnings

The Japanese government, which put its armed forces on alert ahead of the launch, said the rocket had passed over parts of Okinawa prefecture, south of the Japanese mainland.

“The missile that North Korea calls a satellite passed over Okinawa around 10:01. We launched no interception,” a government statement quoted by AFP news agency said.

Japan had threatened to shoot down any debris which infringed on its territory, deploying naval vessels and land-based missile interceptors.

Its top government spokesman called the launch “extremely regrettable” and something that Japan “cannot tolerate”.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, meanwhile, called an emergency meeting of his top advisers. His foreign minister said the government strongly condemned the launch.

The US called the launch another “example of North Korea’s pattern of irresponsible behavior”.

In China – which is North Korea’s closest ally – Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei expressed “regret” at the launch. A commentary from state-run Xinhua news agency called on all parties to remain “cool headed” and engage in “trust-building measures”.

North Korea had said two days ago that the launch could be delayed because of a technical problem, extending the window until December 29th.

South Korea, the US and other nations had urged North Korea not to go ahead, warning that it would constitute a test of long-range missile technology banned by the UN.

Washington and its allies say the rocket launches represent banned missile tests because the basic technology is the same.

North Korea is believed to be working on the development of a long-range missile capable of reaching the west coast of the US mainland.

It has not previously successfully launched a three-stage rocket. Its most recent test, in April 2012, ended in failure, when the rocket flew for only a few minutes before exploding and crashing into the sea west of the Korean peninsula.

The closed communist nation has also carried out two nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009. International talks on ending its nuclear ambitions have been stalled for several years.

Officials fear it could be working towards a missile on which a nuclear warhead could be mounted – but it is not thought to have fully developed either the missile or the warheads yet.

North Korea’s rocket launches

  • Dec 2012: North Korea launches three-stage rocket, says it successfully put a satellite into orbit; US defence officials confirm object in orbit
  • Apr 2012: Three-stage rocket explodes just after take-off, falls into sea
  • Apr 2009: Three-stage rocket launched; North Korea says it was a success, US says it failed and fell into the sea
  • Jul 2006: North Korea test-fires a long-range Taepdong-2 missile; US said it failed shortly after take-off

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The US is moving navy ships into position to track North Korea’s rocket due to launch later this month.

The warships were moved to achieve “the best situational awareness”, the US military chief in the region said.

Japan’s government, meanwhile, has formally issued an order to its military to shoot down any rocket debris that infringes on its territory.

North Korea plans to launch its rocket between 10 and 22 December, saying it will put a satellite into space.

The US and other nations say the launch constitutes a test of long-range missile technology banned under UN resolutions.

North Korea conducted a similar launch in April 2012, but the rocket flew only for a short time before crashing into waters off the Korean peninsula.

This launch window includes two key dates – 17 December marks the first anniversary of the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and 19 December is when South Korea’s presidential election takes place.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency – citing unidentified sources – reports that all three stages of the rocket are now in place at the launch site and that fuel is being injected into a storage tank, after which the rocket will be fuelled.

But a US think-tank says preparations may not be this far advanced, citing satellite images of the launch site.

The US is moving navy ships into position to track North Korea’s rocket due to launch later this month

The US is moving navy ships into position to track North Korea’s rocket due to launch later this month

Snow had forced a temporary halt to work on 4 December, the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said on its 38 North website, but the North Koreans still had time to complete preparations on schedule.

Based on co-ordinates provided by Pyongyang, the rocket is expected to fly south – with stages dropping into the sea west of the Korean peninsula and then east of the Philippines.

Admiral Samuel Locklear, head of US forces in the Asia-Pacific region, said preparations for the launch were being watched “very closely”.

On the warships, he said it “should seem logical that we’ll move them around so we have the best situational awareness”.

“To the degree that those [navy] ships are capable of participating in ballistic missile defense, then we will position them to be able to do that,” he said.

The rocket’s flight plan also takes it close to parts of Japan’s Okinawa prefecture. The Japanese government has pledged to shoot down any debris that falls over its territory.

It is deploying three warships equipped with missile interceptors and is also positioning PAC-3 missile interceptors on the ground at four locations in Okinawa prefecture, Kyodo news agency said.

All Nippon Airways, meanwhile, says it is adjusting flight plans to avoid the area off the Philippines where the second stage of the rocket may fall.

Similar preparations by the US and Japanese militaries were seen ahead of the failed launch in April. But the 30 m (100 ft) Unha-3 rocket is thought to have flown for only minutes before breaking up.

North Korea has not yet successfully launched a three-stage rocket, despite four attempts since 1998. It is believed to be working on the development of a long-range missile capable of reaching the west coast of the US mainland.

The US and its allies say the rocket launches represent banned tests of ballistic missile technology because the basic technology is the same.

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North Korea plans to launch a long-range rocket between 10 and 22 December, KCNA news agency says.

The KCNA agency said the aim was to launch a satellite.

Previous – unsuccessful – launches have been criticized as breaches of a UN ban on North Korean ballistic missile tests.

The announcement is likely to increase tensions with North Korea’s neighbors, with South Korea expressing concern over Pyongyang’s announcement.

South Korean officials called the move a “grave provocation” and a “challenge to the international community”.

The atmosphere in South Korea is especially tense as the country prepares for a presidential election scheduled for 19 December.

North Korea’s most recent rocket launch, in April, was a failure.

The US, Japan and South Korea said the rocket flew only for a short time before breaking up and crashing into waters off the Korean peninsula.

North Korea plans a second long-range rocket launch between 10 and 22 December

North Korea plans a second long-range rocket launch between 10 and 22 December

Earlier this week South Korea halted a satellite launch minutes before take-off after problems were found during the final checks.

North Korean scientists and technicians had now “analyzed the mistakes” of the April launch, the Korean Committee for Space Technology said, via KCNA.

The rocket will be of the same Unha-3 variety as was used in the April test. It will be launched “southward” from the Sohae base near the Chinese border, KCNA said, implying it would be directed over the East China Sea.

The flight path had been chosen to avoid debris falling on neighboring countries, the agency said.

“Unha” is Korean for “galaxy”, and is the name given by North Korea to the space launcher version of its Taepodong-2 missile, which has an estimated range of 2,200km. The missile has not yet been successfully tested.

There had been recent speculation that North Korea would attempt another launch soon, with a UN Security Council committee on Thursday warning the country against such a move.

Saturday’s statement insisted the forthcoming launch would be for “peaceful purposes”.

The test will be the second to take place under the leadership of Kim Jong-un, who took over leadership of the country after the death of his father Kim Jong-il almost a year ago.

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North Korea has been conducting tests at a rocket launch site, according to recent satellite images captured by the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

The US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said its analysis of images “indicates that North Korea continues to develop long-range missiles”.

There had been at least two tests of rocket motors since a failed rocket launch in April, it said.

The 30 m (100 ft) rocket crashed into the sea shortly after take off.

Pyongyang said the launch was aimed at putting a satellite into orbit, but it was widely criticized by the US, South Korea and Japan as a banned test of long-range missile technology.

North Korea has been conducting tests at a rocket launch site, according to recent satellite images captured by the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University

North Korea has been conducting tests at a rocket launch site, according to recent satellite images captured by the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University

“Since the failed launch, the North has conducted at least two, and possibly more, tests of large rocket motors at its Sohae Satellite Launching Station, the most recent in mid-September 2012,” a report on the institute’s 38 North blog said.

The tests appear to have involved “liquid-fuelled, first stage engines” for either North Korea’s existing satellite launch vehicle, or a new long-range missile first seen during a military parade this year, the institute said.

There had also been indications of construction activity on the rocket site’s upper gantry platform “required for future launches of long-range rockets”, it said.

The report suggested North Korea could be planning test activities once both the US and South Korean presidential elections are finished. The South Korean poll takes place in December.

“Whether the testing of large rocket motors or construction at the launch pad are in preparation for such activities remains unclear at this point,” it said.

Advances in the country’s missile technology are watched carefully in both Seoul and Washington because of fears that North Korea could one day use long-range missiles to deliver nuclear weapons.

A United States institute has noticed that satellite images show that a ”major upgrade” is underway at North Korea’s rocket launch site Musudan-ri.

Work at the Musudan-ri site showed “rapid progress” since mid-2011, the analysis said.

The report came as Pyongyang accused Washington of trying to ”incite confrontation” over speculation it may carry out a third nuclear test.

North Korea ”never envisaged” such an act, said a foreign ministry spokesman.

The remarks followed a US warning that a nuclear test would lead to a “swift and sure response” from the region.

Glyn Davis, the US special envoy for North Korea policies, said on Monday that any such move by Pyongyang would be “a serious miscalculation”.

The satellite images, taken on 29 April of the Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground (also known as Musudan-ri) were analyzed by the 38north website of the US-Korea institute at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University.

A United States institute has noticed that satellite images show that a ''major upgrade'' is underway at North Korea's rocket launch site Musudan-ri

A United States institute has noticed that satellite images show that a ''major upgrade'' is underway at North Korea's rocket launch site Musudan-ri

Citing fast progress on upgrading work, the analysis said: ”At the current pace of construction, the facilities should be operational by 2016-17.”

It also noted similarities between the North Korean buildings and those at Iran’s Semnan Missile and Space Center.

”Nevertheless, while the two countries have a long history of missile co-operation, it is too soon to tell whether that co-operation extends to the design and construction of this facility or the new long-range liquid-fuelled rocket,” it added.

Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear ambitions faced increased scrutiny in recent months, following the death of Kim Jong-Il last December and installation of his son Kim Jong-Un.

In the wake of North Korea’s failed rocket launch last month, South Korea also reported that preparations for a third nuclear test appeared to be under way.

In a statement on Tuesday, North Korea hit out at US comments on the possible test, saying the country had told the US that it was ”restraining” itself.

”From the beginning, we did not envisage such a military measure as a nuclear test as we planned to launch a scientific and technical satellite for peaceful purposes,” the ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by KCNA news agency.

There was still room for ”dialogue and negotiation” to resolve ”the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula”, the spokesman added, but this could not happen unless the US ”rolls up its hostile policy” towards North Korea.

”If the US persists in its moves to ratchet up sanctions and pressure upon us despite our peace-loving efforts, we will be left with no option but to take counter-measures for self-defense,” the spokesman said.

The US Department of State declined to comment on the 38north analysis, but responded briefly to North Korea’s statement.

“We’re going to be guided not by what they say, but what they do,” spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing.