SEOUL, South Korea // North Korea told an international organization it will fire a satellite into space between April 4-8, a launch that neighbouring governments suspect will actually be a test of missile technology. South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported that North Korea has informed the International Maritime Organization (IMO) of its early April schedule for the satellite launch, citing a source it did not identify.
The North has also informed the IMO of orbit co-ordinates for a launch, which indicate a course toward the east of the Korean peninsula, Yonhap said. Separately, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said the country has informed the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), International Maritime Organization and others "of necessary information for the safe navigation of planes and ships" amid preparations for the launch.
That dispatch did not say when a launch would take place, but the Yonhap report cited the dates April 4-8. Officials of the ICAO and IMO were not immediately available for comment. Reports began emerging in February that North Korea was preparing to test a long-range missile. The secretive state has since sought to portray the launch as a legitimate and peaceful space programme, and has vowed to retaliate against anyone who tries to prevent it.
South Korea, Japan and the United States believe the launch will test missile technology in violation of a 2006 UN Security Council resolution banning Pyongyang from ballistic activity, and have urged the North not to go forward. North Korea's rocket plans have stoked already tense relations with the US and South Korea. Pyongyang accuses them of preparing an invasion during annual military drills taking place this week, a charge they deny.
South Korea's two main airlines began redirecting flights away from the North's airspace last week after the North threatened Seoul's passenger planes in protest over the annual exercises. *AP