The United States has responded to North Korea's announcement that it plans to launch a long-range rocket, saying the act would be "highly provocative" and would threaten peace and security in the region. It said any such launch using ballistic missile technology would be in direct violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions adopted earlier this year.
The U.S. State Department released its response Saturday, after North Korea's official news agency reported the Stalinist state plans to launch a long-range rocket later this month. The State Department also said devoting scarce resources to the development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles will further isolate and impoverish North Korea.
Japan's Kyodo news agency reports that Japan is postponing diplomatic talks with North Korea because of the announcement of launch plans.
In a statement published Saturday by the Korean Central News Agency, the Korean Committee for Space Technology said it plans to send a working satellite into orbit between December 10 and 22.
The statement said scientists had analyzed the mistakes that were made during a failed launch in April and have improved the reliability and precision of the latest carrier rocket, intended to put a polar-orbiting earth observation satellite into orbit.
A satellite imagery company, DigitalGlobe, released an image last month showing an increased level of personnel, trucks and other equipment at North Korea's Sohae West Sea Satellite Launch Station. DigitalGlobe said if North Korea desires, it could carry out a long-range ballistic missile test at the site within weeks.
Though recent test launches have failed, nuclear-armed North Korea is thought to be developing an inter-continental ballistic missile that could strike the United States. Pyongyang said the April launch was meant to place a satellite into orbit. But the U.S. and its allies said it was a disguised ballistic missile test banned under U.N. sanctions.