N.Korean Rocket Launch 'Politically Motivated'

North Korea on Thursday declared it has "brilliantly accomplished" late leader Kim Jong-il's last wishes with the rocket launch on Wednesday. That confirms suspicions that the launch was chiefly motivated by domestic politics and aimed to boost the regime of new leader Kim Jong-un.

The National Intelligence Service added the North could have launched the rocket in a bid to acquire technology to develop a delivery vehicle for nuclear warheads, as well as in order to assert itself domestically or draw attention from the U.S. and China.

NIS Director Won Sei-hoon told a National Assembly committee the North Korean regime "will probably make the most of the rocket launch to celebrate the first anniversary of Kim Jong-un's inauguration." Massive rallies are expected.

But the NIS added the launch was probably not aimed at influencing the imminent presidential election in South Korea, as the press here had speculated.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un celebrates with scientists and technicians after the launch of a rocket, in this picture released by the Norths KCNA news agency in Pyongyang on Wednesday. /Reuters-Yonhap North Korean leader Kim Jong-un celebrates with scientists and technicians after the launch of a rocket, in this picture released by the North's KCNA news agency in Pyongyang on Wednesday. /Reuters-Yonhap

The regime seems to face an increasingly muddled political situation as the young leader has tried to consolidate his grip on power since his inauguration. South Korean government officials speculate that senior party, government, and military officials in the North have been rattled by Kim junior's yearlong purge to get the apparatus under control.

Han Ki-bum, a former NIS official in charge of North Korean affairs, said, "The North failed in April to accomplish [the launch], so it tried to redeem its mistake by the end of this year on the first anniversary of Kim Jong-un's inauguration."

In the peculiar ethos of the North Korean state, a top priority is to accomplish a dead leader's last wishes. If things had gone according to plan, the regime would have succeeded in launching the rocket on the 100th birthday of nation founder Kim Il-sung on April 15.

At the time, it invited a large group of foreign journalists to the launch but suffered the embarrassment of seeing it explode two minutes and 15 seconds after launch.

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 14, 2012 09:27 KST