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Story highlights

South Korea and Japan condemn planned satellite launch

American officials concerned that rocket involved could be used as a weapon

North Korea says it is not bound by international arms-control agreements

(CNN) —  

North Korea has indicated that it will launch a satellite in the coming days, a United Nations agency said, drawing condemnation from South Korea and Japan.

Pyongyang told the International Maritime Organization on Tuesday that it intends to launch an Earth observation satellite between February 8 and 25, IMO spokeswoman Natasha Brown told CNN.

The IMO is responsible for creating frameworks for the safety and security of shipping. North Korea in December 2012 also informed IMO with its launch dates and falling area coordinates weeks before its rocket launch.

The reclusive regime also notified the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) on Tuesday that it intends to launch satellite, ITU spokesman Sanjay Acharya said. The ITU registers all satellite transmission frequencies to ensure there is no cross-satellite interference.

While North Korea says it’s putting a satellite into orbit, the launch is viewed by others as a front for a ballistic missile test. U.S. officials have said the same type of rocket used to launch the satellite could also be used to fire a long-range missile.

South Korea condemned the planned launch as a “direct challenge against the international community,” and warned that North Korea would pay a “grave price” if it went ahead.

“North Korea must clearly understand that if they carry out long-range missile test, it would be a severe threat against peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula, this region and the world and must immediately withdraw its plan,” said Cho Tae-yong, first deputy director of national security of the South Korean Presidential Office.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also urged North Korea to “refrain” from the launch and said his Cabinet is working closely with the United States and South Korea to gather information and prepare a potential response.

“Forcing the launch is a clear violation against the [United Nations Security Council] resolution and a serious provocation against the security to our country,” Abe told a parliamentary committee Wednesday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang expressed “deep concern” over the launch.

“We hope (North Korea) will exercise restraint and caution in its actions. It should not act in a way that may escalate tensions on the peninsula,” Lu said Wednesday.

Over the years, there have been various efforts by the international community to negotiate an end to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program – and its missile program, as well – according to the website of the Arms Control Association, a nonpartisan Washington-based organization dedicated to promoting public support for “effective arms control policies.”

Anticipating a new missile launch

But, while there have been agreements and near-agreements over the years, all efforts have eventually collapsed, the Arms Control Association said. And North Korea contends it has withdrawn from any international agreements that would limit its weaponry.

A scenario similar to the current one unfolded in 2012, when North Korea announced it was launching a rocket carrying a satellite. North Korea said that operation was for peaceful purposes, but Japan, the United States and South Korea decried it as a cover for a long-range ballistic missile test.

The United States has been anticipating a new launch.

In recent days, U.S. satellites have spotted activity at a launch station in North Korea, and the United States has assessed that the North has assembled all the elements, equipment and technology for the launch of a satellite atop a long range rocket, and that a launch could happen at any point, several U.S. officials told CNN.

Tuesday’s announcement comes about a month after North Korea bragged about what it said was the “spectacular success” of its first hydrogen bomb test, on January 6. A U.S. official directly familiar with an assessment of the test said last week there may have been a partial, failed test of some type of components associated with a hydrogen bomb.

CNN’s Yoko Wakatsuki and KJ Kwon contributed to this report