The North has said its long-range rocket launch, set for between Dec. 10 and 22, is to place an "Earth observation satellite" in space but critics, including the United States, see it as a highly provocative act that would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibiting Pyongyang from conducting further nuclear tests or ballistic missile launches.
North's critics also say the launch would actually be a test of its intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
While the Chinese government also has expressed concern about the North's plans, Professor Wang Fan at the China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing told China Daily the launch is meant to be an attempt to grab international attention and not to intensify tensions on the Korean Peninsula, said
Wang Junsheng, an East Asian studies researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the official Chinese newspaper North Korea remains isolated and needs a favorable international atmosphere to develop its domestic economy. He said the announcement is warning the international community to take North Korea seriously and hold talks with it.
China is a chief ally of North Korea, which is now led by the young, but relatively unknown Kim Jong Un, who came to power last December after the death of his father and needs to consolidate his leadership as the country remains impoverished.
On Sunday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang urged "relevant parties" to prevent the matter from escalating. He said while North Korea has the right to peacefully use space, that right is limited by the U.N. Security Council resolutions.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, while warning the North its rocket launch would violate U.N. resolutions, was also quoted as saying the North is working hard to influence upcoming presidential elections in the South.
Wang Fan told China Daily in seeking to affect South Korea elections, the North is hoping for a softer stance from the leaders in the South.
"But the launch is a double-edge sword that will also result in a new round of sanctions from the international community against the [North]," he said.