North notified U.N. agencies on Tuesday of its plan to launch what
it called an "earth observation satellite" some time between Feb. 8
North Korea has said it has a sovereign right to pursue a space
program by launching rockets, although the United States and other
governments suspect that such launches are in reality tests of its
"We have defenses ready to deal with all threats, but in view of the
announcement I have put the Self Defense Force's Aegis destroyers
and our PAC-3 units on alert and issued an order to shoot down any
ballistic missile threat," Japan's defense minister, Gen Nakatani,
told media briefing.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would work with the
United States and others to "strongly demand" that North Korea
refrain from what he described as a planned missile launch.
Tension rose in East Asia last month after North Korea's fourth
nuclear test, this time of what it said was a hydrogen bomb.
A rocket launch coming so soon after the nuclear test would raise
concern that North Korea plans to fit nuclear warheads on its
missiles, giving it the capability to launch a strike against South
Korea, Japan and possibly targets as far away as the U.S. West
North Korea last launched a long-range rocket in December 2012,
sending an object it described as a communications satellite into
South Korea said the North should immediately call off the launch,
which is a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, the
South's presidential Blue House said in a statement.
"North Korea's notice of the plan to launch a long-range missile,
coming at a time when there is a discussion for Security Council
sanctions on its fourth nuclear test, is a direct challenge to the
international community," the Blue House said.
"We strongly warn that the North will pay a severe price ... if it
goes ahead with the long-range missile launch plan," it said.
China, under U.S. pressure to use its influence to rein in the
isolated North, said North Korea's right to space exploration was
restricted under U.N. resolutions.
China is North Korea's sole main ally though China disapproves of
its nuclear program.
"We are extremely concerned about this," Chinese Foreign Ministry
spokesman Lu Kang told a briefing.
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"In the present situation, we hope North Korea exercises restraint
on the issue of launching satellites, acts cautiously and does not
take any escalatory steps that may further raise tensions on the
Reports of the planned launch drew fresh U.S. calls for tougher U.N.
sanctions that are already under discussion in response to North
Korea's Jan. 6 nuclear test.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said the United Nations needed
to "send the North Koreans a swift, firm message".
A spokeswoman for the International Maritime Organization, a U.N.
agency, said the agency had been told by North Korea it planned to
launch the "Kwangmyongsong" satellite.
North Korea said the launch would be conducted in the morning one
day during the announced period, and notified the coordinates for
the locations where the rocket boosters and the cover for the
payload would drop.
Those locations are expected to be in the Yellow Sea off the Korean
peninsula west coast and in the Pacific Ocean to the east of the
Philippines, Pyongyang said.
South Korea told commercial airliners to avoid flying in areas of
the rocket's possible flight path during the period.
The launch is likely to be from the North's Tongchang-ri station
near the Chinese border.
U.S. officials said last week North Korea was believed to be
preparing for a test launch of a long-range rocket, after activity
at the site was observed by satellite.
(Additional reporting by Ju-min Park in Seoul and Ben Blanchard in
Beijing; Editing by Tony Munroe and Michael Perry, Robert Birsel)
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