NKorea says it may change rocket launch window

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This Dec. 4, 2012 satellite image taken by GeoEye and annotated and distributed by North Korea Tech and 38 North shows the Sohae launching station in Tongchang-ri, North Korea. New satellite images show that heavy snowfall may have slowed North Korean rocket launch preparations but that Pyongyang could still be ready for liftoff starting Monday, Dec. 10. This image was shared with the AP by the 38 North and North Korea Tech websites, which collaborate on analysis of the satellite imagery. (AP Photo/GeoEye via North Korea Tech and 38 North) MANDATORY CREDIT

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said Sunday that scientists are "seriously examining" the possibility of changing a launch window for a rocket the country had planned to fire sometime after Monday.

The short statement by an unnamed spokesman for the North's Korean Committee of Space Technology provided few details. Recent satellite images have indicated that snow may have slowed preparations, but analysts believed Pyongyang could still be ready for liftoff starting Monday.

The North's statement, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, said scientists are making preparations for the launch of what North Korea calls a peaceful satellite but "are now seriously examining the issue of readjusting the launching time of the satellite for some reasons."

It didn't elaborate. The previously announced launch window runs from Monday to Dec. 22.

The United Nations, Washington, Seoul and others call the launch a cover for a test of technology for a missile that could be used to target the United States.

North Korea's launch preparations have been magnified as an issue because of their timing: Both Japan and South Korea hold elections this month, and President Barack Obama will be inaugurated for his second term in office in January.

North Korea's launch window comes as its people mark the Dec. 17 death of leader Kim Jong Un's father, Kim Jong Il. North Korea is also celebrating the centennial of the birth of Kim Jong Un's grandfather, national founder Kim Il Sung.

North Korea has a long history of developing ballistic missiles, but in four attempts since 1998 it has not successfully completed the launch of a three-stage rocket. It has also conducted two nuclear tests, intensifying worry over how its rocket technology could be used in the future, particularly if it masters attaching a nuclear warhead to a missile.

A North Korean rocket in April broke apart shortly after liftoff but the launch was condemned by the U.N.