North Korea is to launch a long-range rocket between Dec. 10 and 22, Pyongyang's official news agency said, an announcement that is likely to increase tensions between North Korea and neighboring countries.
South Korean officials called the move a "grave provocation" and a "challenge to the international community," BBC reported. South Korea is currently preparing for a presidential election, scheduled for Dec 19.
According to the Associated Press, this is North Korea's second attempt to launch a rocket since Kim Jong Un took power nearly a year ago. The most recent rocket launch, which took place in April, was a failure-- the rocket only flew for a short time before breaking up and crashing into the waters off the Korean peninsula.
Some experts believe that the move is a "calculated bluff."
"It's possible, of course, that Pyongyang knows its preparations will be seen and discussed in the West, and they are intended to be a signal rather than signs of an imminent launch," David Wright, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote on the organization's website this week, the AP reported. "Preparing for a launch less than a year after a failure calls into question whether the North could have analyzed and fixed whatever went wrong."
Regardless, the US State Department responded to North Korea's announcement on Saturday, saying a rocket launch would be "highly provocative" and threaten peace and security in the region, according to Voice of America.
The State Department also said any launch which used ballistic missile technology would be a direct violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions adopted earlier this year.
Japan's Kyodo news agency said Japan was postponing diplomatic talks this week because of North Korea's announcement.