North Korea formally announced Tuesday that it plans to launch a long-range rocket as early as next week in order to place an Earth observation satellite into orbit, which critics note is a major violation of United Nations resolutions and possibly a disguise for testing banned ballistic missile technology.
The United Nations' International Maritime Organization said that North Korea issued a shipping warning of its intentions to launch a satellite sometime between Feb. 8 and Feb. 25.
North Korea also advised the U.N.'s International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Telecommunication Union that the satellite will have a functional duration of four years and circle the Earth in a non-geostationary orbit, according to Reuters. The notice is intended to warn ships, aircraft and civilians in the area about falling debris, which is expected to land in waters off the west coast of South Korea and to the east of the Philippines.
Experts say North Korea will be able to use the launch to test some of the technology needed to conduct a long-range nuclear strike, according to BBC.
North Korea's announcement comes just weeks after it claimed to have conducted its fourth nuclear test – of a hydrogen bomb – for which the Obama administration is attempting to impose stricter international sanctions.
The White House said Tuesday that any additional launches by North Korea would be seen as "another destabilizing 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," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters, according to The Daily Caller.
The senior U.S. diplomat for East Asia, Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel, told reporters that using ballistic missile technology would be an "egregious violation" of Pyongyang's international obligations and shows the need "to raise the cost to the leaders through the imposition of tough additional sanctions and of course by ensuring the thorough and rigorous enforcement of the existing sanctions."
Russel said that even China, North Korea's main ally, agrees with the U.S. that "there needs to be consequences to North Korea for its defiance and for its threatening behaviors."
However, North Korea says it is not intimidated by the threat of sanctions and insists that its launches are for peaceful purposes.
"We have nothing to be afraid of," North Korea's ambassador to the U.K., Hyon Hak Bong, said in September, NK News reported. "We will go ahead definitely, surely. If they... pass resolutions or sanctions, this will be viewed as a provocation and... can make the situation worse. I assure you that the launch is for a peaceful purpose."