Is Asia on cusp of space race?

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LONDON. January 31. KAZINFORM The United States and the Soviet Union defined the world's first space race, but following South Korea's successful orbital rocket launch this week, it appears Asia -- particularly North Asia -- is the world's new epicenter for space rivalries in the 21st century.

"In some sense we are already there," says Daniel Pinkston, North East Asia Deputy Project Director for International Crisis Group in Seoul, South Korea. "The Chinese have been very active... (also) Japan, North and South Korea. It's quite a competitive atmosphere."

The race will only ratchet up later this year.

In the second half of 2013, China will shoot for the moon with the aim of landing a rover vehicle on its surface; building on exploration milestones in 2003 and 2012 with the first man, then woman , in space. India plans to send an unmanned probe into Mars orbit this November .

Last July, Japan's government set up the country'sfirst-ever Cabinet-level office for space strategy to oversee the country's space policy and related budget, CNN reported.

And on December 12 last year, North Korea joined the space club -- ahead of more technologically advanced South Korea -- with the successful launch of an Unha-3 rocket that placed an Earth observation satellite into orbit. It was a controversial first for the poverty-stricken nation, yet the country has vowed more launches.

South Korea's own successful rocket launch makes it the fifth Asian country -- and just the 13th nation in the world -- to break the bonds of Earth.

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