SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea has declared plans to launch an Earth observation satellite on a rocket later this month, an official with a London-based agency said Tuesday. This would cause international outrage because such tests are seen by the United Nations and other critics as covers for banned long-range missile tests meant to further North Korea’s nuclear bomb and missile programs.
An official at the International Maritime Organization said North Korea declared that an Earth observation satellite launch would be conducted between Feb. 8 and 25, between 7 a.m. and noon Pyongyang time. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because she hadn’t been authorized to speak publicly yet.
The declaration follows North Korea’s claim last month to have tested a hydrogen bomb, the country’s fourth nuclear test.
Japan’s Kyodo News agency reported that North Korea also notified the Geneva-based International Telecommunication Union “via diplomatic channels” that it will launch a Kwangmyongsong (Bright Star) -type satellite with a four-year operational life later this month.
North Korea’s last long-range rocket launch, in December 2012, was seen as having successfully put the country’s first satellite into orbit after a string of failures. Each new rocket launch improves North Korea’s missile technology, which is crucial for its goal of developing a nuclear-armed missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.
North Korea is estimated to have a handful of crude nuclear devices but there is debate about whether it can miniaturize a warhead or construct a complicated missile capable of accurately hitting distant targets.
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