AFP - North Korea announced Thursday it has notified an international shipping agency of its planned satellite launch, which South Korea's Yonhap news agency said would happen early next month.
South Korean and US officials see such a launch as a disguised missile test and have urged the communist state to scrap its plans.
The North gave the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and other world bodies "necessary information for the safe navigation of planes and ships" as part of preparations for launching "an experimental communications satellite," the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
Yonhap, quoting a Seoul intelligence source, said the North had informed the London-based IMO that it plans to fire the rocket between April 4-8. There was no immediate confirmation.
The North has asserted its right to peaceful space research and says any attempt to shoot down its rocket will be seen as an act of war.
KCNA said Pyongyang has also joined an international treaty and convention on the peaceful use of space.
"The DPRK's (North Korea's) accession to the said treaty and convention will contribute to promoting international confidence and boosting cooperation in the scientific research into space and the satellite launch for peaceful purposes," it said.
There have been reports for weeks that the North is preparing to launch its longest-range missile, the Taepodong-2, from a base at Musudan-ri on its northeast coast.
The missile could theoretically reach Alaska.
The US intelligence chief said Tuesday that the North appeared to be planning a space launch as it claimed.
"The North Koreans announced that they were going to do a space launch, and I believe that that's what they intend," National Intelligence director Dennis Blair told a Congressional committee.
However, he said the technology is indistinguishable from a missile test.
The US and South Korea say a launch for any purpose would breach a UN resolution adopted after the North's last missile test in 2006.