North Korea’s planned rocket launch angers US, South Korea and Japan

The United States, South Korea and Japan have condemned North Korean plans to launch a rocket carrying a satellite – a further major breach of UN resolutions following a nuclear test in January.

The International Maritime Organization said it had received a shipping warning from North Korea of its intention to launch an earth observation satellite between 8 and 25 February.

The Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, told parliament on Wednesday: “If North Korea goes ahead and launches the rocket, it would clearly violate UN security council resolutions and pose a serious provocation,” he said in parliament.

US defence officials and Japanese media had previously said North Korea was preparing for a rocket launch.

Although Pyongyang insists its space programme is purely scientific in nature, the international community views such launches as disguised ballistic missile tests.

UN resolutions forbid North Korea from any use of ballistic missile technology, and the UN imposed sanctions following the country’s previous rocket launch in December 2012.

If the notified launch goes ahead, it will be a particular slap in the face to the US, which has spent the past month seeking international support for tough sanctions on Pyongyang over its 6 January nuclear test.

The White House said any satellite launch by North Korea would be viewed by the international community as another destabilising provocation.

“I feel confident in telling you that the international community would regard a step like that by the North Koreans as just another irresponsible provocation and a clear violation of their international obligations,” a spokesman said.

Daniel Russel, the assistant US secretary of state for Asia-Pacific affairs, said: “The North is threatening to move in the wrong direction. It’s the wrong direction from the point of view of the international community.

“North Korea is defying the UN security council, it’s defying its … neighbour China, it’s defying the international community to the detriment of regional peace and security, and to the detriment of North Korean people itself,” he said.

“This argues even more strongly for action by the UN security council and the international community to impose real consequences for the destabilising action that the DPRK has taken, is taking, and to raise the cost to the leaders through the imposition of tough additional sanctions.”

South Korea on Wednesday urged Pyongyang to drop the launch, warning it would pay dearly if it went ahead.

In a government statement the South said any missile test disguised as a satellite launch would pose a “grave threat” to world peace and security.

“North Korea must immediately drop its plan to launch, paying heed to the fact that any launch using ballistic technology is in breach of UN resolutions” against it, the statement said.

“Should the North push ahead with the long-range missile launch, which would pose a grave threat to peace and security in the region and the world, it would have to pay the price dearly,” said the statement, which was read by Cho Tae-Yong, a senior national security official at the presidential Blue House.