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(LEAD) N. Korea says it may delay rocket launch
SEOUL, Dec. 9 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Sunday it is considering postponing the dates of its planned long-term rocket launch this month, citing unspecified "reasons."

   North Korea announced last week that it would fire off a space rocket, called Gwangmyeongseong, or lode star, between Dec. 10 and Dec. 22. South Korea and other regional powers suspect that the launch is a disguised test of a long-range missile that may target the United States.

   "Our scientists and technicians are now seriously examining the issue of readjusting the launching time of the satellite for some reasons," the Korean Central News Agency quoted a spokesman for the North's Korean Committee of Space Technology as saying in an interview.

   The spokesman, however, said in the report that North Korea is on the final stage of preparations for the rocket launch. He gave no further details, including what those "reasons" are.

   Some analysts in Seoul speculate that North Korea might have considered mounting international pressure in making the move. Even China has voiced concern over the North's move to launch the rocket.

   Increment weather might have forced North Korea to make the move, according to South Korean intelligence officials. Heavy snow blanketed the North's northwestern region from which the rocket was to be launched, they said.

   Satellite imagery showed the three-stage rocket mounted on the launch pad in Dongchang-ri in the North's North Pyongan Province on Thursday. But there were no indications that fuel was actually injected into the rocket.

   "We can tell that the fuel injection began if the trucks are gone and related military forces are not spotted, but it's not now," a Seoul intelligence official said.

   sshim@yna.co.kr
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