North Korea Notifies World Agencies of Satellite Launch Plan

12 March 2009

North Korea has told international agencies it will conduct its planned launch of what Pyongyang says is a satellite in early April.  

North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket became all but inevitable as Pyongyang informed international agencies it will put a satellite into space sometime between April 4 and 8.  

A North Korean announcer speaking on state-run media says Pyongyang has informed the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Maritime Organization and other international organizations of the launch. He says they have been given what they need to know to ensure the safety of airplanes and marine vessels in the region of the planned launch.

Authorities with those agencies say they are now preparing a formal safety advisory for aircraft and sea vessels in the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Japan in the vicinity of North Korea. They say they expect North Korea to conduct the launch during daylight hours.

South Korean analysts say the North's notification of its plans is aimed at lending legitimacy to the launch, which Pyongyang says is part of a space research program.  But South Korean, Japanese, and U.S. officials are skeptical about the North's plan and suspect the so-called satellite launch is in reality a way to test a long-range rocket.

South Korea Unification Minister Hyun In-taek is Seoul's key official on North Korea policy.

He says circumstantial evidence indicates the launch involves a long-range missile rather than a satellite. He adds, the technology for both are almost identical.

South Korea warns any long-range launch by the North will be a violation of a U.N. resolution passed in 2006, when North Korea conducted long-range missile and nuclear weapons tests within months of each other. That could trigger more sanctions against the impoverished state.  

Japan has announced it will extend its unilateral sanctions against North Korea if it launches the rocket.

The U.S. Navy conducted media tours Friday of its U.S.S. Chafee Aegis Destroyer, docked in South Korea as part of an annual joint military drill with the South's forces. The vessel has the technological potential to shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile, something neither the United States nor Japan have ruled out doing. Pyongyang has warned such a shootdown would result in war.