N. Korea Plans to Launch Satellite in Feb.

TOKYO (Reuters) -
Airbus Defense & Space and 38 North satellite imagery dated January 25, 2016 shows three objects at the base of the gantry tower that are either vehicles or equipment at Sohae Satellite Launching Station in North Korea in this image released on January 28, 2016. The United States has seen increased activity around a North Korean site suggesting preparations for a possible space launch in the near future, U.S. officials told Reuters on Thursday, amid growing concerns over Pyongyang's weapons program. REUTERS/Airbus Defense & Space and 38 North/Handout via Reuters “Includes material Pleiades © CNES 2016 Distribution Airbus DS / Spot Image, all rights reserved.” Images may not be altered ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT
Images dated Jan. 25 show three objects at the base of the gantry tower that are either vehicles or equipment at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in North Korea. (Reuters/Airbus Defense & Space and 38 North/Handout via Reuters)

North Korea has notified the International Maritime Organization of plans to launch a satellite between Feb. 8 and Feb. 25, the United Nations agency told Reuters late on Tuesday.

Previously U.S. officials thought that North Korea was making preparations for a test launch of a long-range rocket. That suspicion was formed after activity was observed at its test site via satellite.

“We have received information from DPRK regarding the launch of earth-observation satellite ‘Kwangmyongsong’ between 8-25 February,” a spokeswoman for the IMO told Reuters by email. (North Korea’s official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.)

North Korea, which conducted its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 in defiance of U.N. sanctions, last conducted a long-range rocket launch in December 2012, sending an object it described as a communications satellite into orbit. Western and Asian experts have said that the 2012 launch was part of an effort to build an intercontinental ballistic missile.

North Korea maintains that it has a sovereign right to pursue a space program by launching rockets.

North Korea is already under U.N. sanctions for its nuclear and missile programs, and countries including the United States and South Korea are seeking fresh sanctions after its latest nuclear test.