Pyongyang says it will attempt to launch the final satellite before December 2 as Japan and South Korea remain on alert.
North Korea said it plans to launch a spy satellite as early as Wednesday after two failed attempts earlier this year.
North Korea formally notified Japan that the launch would occur earlier than December 2, prompting Japan and South Korea to issue maritime warnings for ships in the Yellow Sea and East China Sea.
Although Japan is one of North Korea’s main enemies, it is also the coordinating body for the International Maritime Organization that oversees the waters beneath the satellite’s launch path.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida immediately spoke out against the plan, which North Korea considers its sovereign right, along with its missile program.
“Even if the goal is to launch a satellite, the use of ballistic missile technology violates a number of UN Security Council resolutions,” Kishida told reporters on Tuesday. “It is also an issue that has a huge impact on national security.”
Both the Japanese and South Korean militaries will be on high alert ahead of the launch, which will be joined by the USS Carl Vinson, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, at South Korea’s naval base in Busan.
Kishida said the three countries would work together to “strongly urge” Pyongyang to cancel the launch.
South Korea has warned for weeks about an impending satellite launch, which it said would violate a 2018 agreement aimed at de-escalating tensions.
“We are sternly warning North Korea to … immediately suspend current preparations to launch a military spy satellite,” Kang Ho-pil, chief operating officer of South Korea’s Joint Staff, said on Monday.
“If North Korea launches a military reconnaissance satellite despite our warning, our military will take necessary measures to guarantee people’s lives and safety.”
It is not certain whether the satellite launch will be successful.
North Korea has successfully launched at least two “surveillance” satellites in the past, but two tests this year were unsuccessful.
South Korean officials say the wreckage from the recent launch showed the satellite had “no meaningful use” for reconnaissance purposes.
This time, however, Pyongyang was able to get help from Russia after leader Kim Jong Un made a rare visit there in September to meet President Vladimir Putin at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the country’s east.
Analysts speculated at the time that Kim may have offered some of his munitions – badly needed for Russia’s war effort in Ukraine – in exchange for help with the satellite program.
The spy satellite is a priority in North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s plan to modernize the country’s military and develop cutting-edge weapons.
He hopes that one day the satellite fleet will be able to monitor U.S. and South Korean military movements in the region and increase its military capabilities.
South Korea separately plans to launch its own satellite from California on November 30 with U.S. support.