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Asia, The New Epicenter of Space Competition

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | January 31, 2013 3:55 PM EST

With Iran having hurtled into space its first space monkey, South Korea announcing the satellite it blasted on Wednesday is now successfully transmitting data and North Korea which seven weeks ago likewise did the same, it is no wonder that Asia is now slowly transforming to become the world's epicentre of space competition.

"In some sense we are already there," Daniel Pinkston, North East Asia deputy project director for the International Crisis Group in Seoul, South Korea, was quoted by CNN. "The Chinese have been very active . . . (also) Japan, North and South Korea. It's quite a competitive atmosphere."

On Wednesday, South Korea, much to the chagrin of its northern counterpart, successfully launched into space a satellite for the first time.

On Monday, Iran blasted its Iranian-built Kavoshgar 5 rocket into space with a monkey inside.

China plans to land a rover vehicle on the moon's surface in the second half of 2013, while India targets to hurtle in November an unmanned probe into Mars orbit.

On December 12, poverty-stricken nation North Korea likewise successfully launched its Unha-3 rocket that placed an Earth observation satellite into orbit. But the United Nations Security Council immediately stepped in, and banned the country from furthering whatever space programs it has.

"South Korea's Naro rocket launch won't be a threat to the North but will give it an opportunity to criticize the United Nations Security Council for what it sees as double standards, pointing out that the South is permitted to launch satellites when the North is banned," Yang Moo Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, was quoted by Bloomberg.

But observers remain wary the game is not just meant for which country launched the first or which country launched the best, but the game is actually being geared for a regional arms race.

"Many people will say that everybody is already running - that it's already on," Mr Pinkston said. "That said it's all relative."

With South Korea's successful launch, China is worried the United States will use the country as its "first containment strategies."

"South Korea's extension of the range of its ballistic missiles will be used to check or contain the rise of China," Cheong Wooksik, Director of South Korea's Peace Network in Seoul, was quoted by CNN.

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