Pyongyang said it would attempt its final satellite launch before Dec. 2, with Japan and South Korea remaining on standby.
North Korea announced plans to launch a spy satellite as early as Wednesday, following two failed attempts earlier this year.
North Korea officially informed Japan that the launch would take place before December 2, prompting Japan and South Korea to issue maritime warnings for ships in the Yellow and East China seas.
Although Japan is one of North Korea’s main foes, it is also the coordinating authority for the International Maritime Organization that oversees the waters below the satellite launch path.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida immediately spoke out against the project, which North Korea considers its sovereign right, just like its rocket program.
“Even if the goal is to launch a satellite, the use of ballistic missile technology is a violation of a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions,” Kishida told reporters Tuesday. “It is also an issue that greatly affects national security.”
The Japanese and South Korean militaries will be on alert ahead of the launch, joined by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, from the South Korean naval base in Busan.
Kishida said the three countries would work together to “strongly urge” Pyongyang to cancel the launch.
South Korea has been warning for weeks of an imminent satellite launch, which it says would also violate a 2018 agreement aimed at easing tensions.
“We strongly warn North Korea to immediately suspend ongoing preparations for the launch of a military spy satellite,” Kang Ho-pil, chief director of operations of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday .
“If North Korea proceeds to launch a military reconnaissance satellite despite our warning, our military will take the necessary measures to guarantee the lives and safety of the population.”
The success of the satellite launch is far from certain.
North Korea has successfully launched at least two “observation” satellites in the past, but its two attempts so far this year have been a failure.
South Korean officials say wreckage from a recent launch shows the satellite had “no significant use” for reconnaissance.
This time, however, Pyongyang may have benefited from Russia’s help following a rare visit by leader Kim Jong Un there in September to meet President Vladimir Putin at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the country’s east .
Analysts speculated at the time that Kim might have offered some of his country’s munitions — vital to Russia’s war effort in Ukraine — in exchange for help with the satellite program.
A spy satellite is a priority in North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s plan to modernize the country’s military and develop advanced weapons.
It hopes to one day have a fleet of satellites to monitor U.S. and South Korean troop movements in the region and bolster its military capabilities.
South Korea also plans to launch its own satellite from California on November 30 with the help of the United States.