North Korea brings forward rocket launch time frame, to from Sunday

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North Korea Has Moved Up Its Rocket Launch Despite Criticism

TOKYO/SEOUL, Feb 6 (Reuters) - North Korea could launch a rocket that it says will carry an earth observation satellite as soon as Sunday, after bringing forward and shortening the time frame for the launch, the Japanese and South Korean governments said on Saturday.

North Korea had earlier told the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) it would launch the rocket some time between Feb. 8 and Feb. 25, triggering international opposition from governments that see it as a long-range missile test.

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Japan and South Korea said North Korea had issued a Notice to Airmen that the launch would take place some time between Sunday and the following Sunday, Feb. 14. The IMO, a United Nations agency, also said on Saturday it had received a notification from North Korea of the change.

Isolated North Korea says it has a sovereign right to pursue a space program. But it is barred under U.N. Security Council resolutions from using ballistic missile technology.

Tension has been high on the Korean peninsula following the North's fourth nuclear test, on Jan. 6. A rocket test now would compound fears about North Korea putting a nuclear warhead on a missile that could reach not only South Korea and Japan but possibly even the west coast of the United States.

See photos from a recent North Korean missile test:

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North Korea brings forward rocket launch time frame, to from Sunday
A TV screen shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a shop in Tokyo, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said it conducted a powerful hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would be a huge jump in Pyongyang's quest to improve its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Japan's U.N. Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa speaks during a press conference after attending a Security Council meeting on North Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016 at U.N. headquarters. North Korea trumpeted its first hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a powerful, self-proclaimed "H-bomb of justice" that would mark a major and unanticipated advance for its still-limited nuclear arsenal. Pyongyang's announcement was met with widespread skepticism, but whatever the North detonated in its fourth nuclear test, another round of tough international sanctions looms for the defiant, impoverished country. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
United Kingdom's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Peter Wilson address the press before attending a Security Council meeting on North Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016 at U.N. headquarters. North Korea trumpeted its first hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a powerful, self-proclaimed "H-bomb of justice". The United Nations secretary-general is condemning North Koreaâs announcement of its latest nuclear test, calling it âprofoundly destabilizing for regional security.â (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Earthquake and Volcano of the Korea Meteorological Administration Director General Yun Won-tae stands in front of a screen showing seismic waves that were measured in South Korea, in Seoul Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said it had conducted a powerful hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would be a huge jump in Pyongyang's quest to improve its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
A Chinese paramilitary policeman stands guard outside the North Korean Embassy in Beijing, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said it conducted a powerful hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would be a huge jump in Pyongyang's quest to improve its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
South Korean army soldiers patrol the barbed-wire fence in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said it conducted a powerful hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would be a huge jump in Pyongyang's quest to improve its still-limited nuclear arsenal.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean army soldiers patrol by the barbed-wire fence in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said it conducted a powerful hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would be a huge jump in Pyongyang's quest to improve its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Chinese paramilitary policemen stand guard outside the North Korean Embassy in Beijing, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said it conducted a powerful hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would be a huge jump in Pyongyang's quest to improve its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying speaks during a briefing at the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing, China, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea's main ally China said it "firmly opposes" Pyongyang's purported hydrogen bomb test and is monitoring the environment along its border with the North near the test site. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
North Koreans watch a news broadcast on a video screen outside Pyongyang Railway Station in Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said Wednesday it had conducted a hydrogen bomb test, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would put Pyongyang a big step closer toward improving its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)
A North Korean national flag flutters in the wind on the roof of its embassy in Beijing, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said it conducted a powerful hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would be a huge jump in Pyongyang's quest to improve its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
People watch a TV news program showing North Korea's announcement, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said Wednesday it had conducted a hydrogen bomb test, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would put Pyongyang a big step closer toward improving its still-limited nuclear arsenal. The letters read " Will not use nuclear weapon if autonomy secured." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
People watch a TV screen showing the news reporting about an earthquake near North Korea's nuclear facility at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said Wednesday it had conducted a hydrogen bomb test, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would put Pyongyang a big step closer toward improving its still-limited nuclear arsenal. The letters read: " North Korea's nuclear test." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A TV screen shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at an electronics store in Tokyo, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said Wednesday it had conducted a hydrogen bomb test, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would put Pyongyang a big step closer toward improving its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
People walk by a screen showing the news reporting about an earthquake near North Korea's nuclear facility, in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. South Korean officials detected an "artificial earthquake" near North Korea's main nuclear test site Wednesday, a strong indication that nuclear-armed Pyongyang had conducted its fourth atomic test. North Korea said it planned an "important announcement" later Wednesday. The letter read "5.1 Earthquake near North Korea's nuclear facility." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
North Koreans watch a news broadcast on a video screen outside Pyongyang Railway Station in Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said Wednesday it had conducted a hydrogen bomb test, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would put Pyongyang a big step closer toward improving its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)
Uruguay's U.N. Ambassador and current Security Council president Elbio Rosselli speaks during a press conference after a closed Security Council meeting on North Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, at U.N. headquarters. North Korea trumpeted its first hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a powerful, self-proclaimed "H-bomb of justice" that would mark a major and unanticipated advance for its still-limited nuclear arsenal. Pyongyang's announcement was met with widespread skepticism, but whatever the North detonated in its fourth nuclear test, another round of tough international sanctions looms for the defiant, impoverished country. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
South Korean army soldiers patrol by ribbons, wishing for the reunification of the two Koreas, attached on the barbed-wire fence in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said it conducted a powerful hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would be a huge jump in Pyongyang's quest to improve its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Map locates North Korea's nuclear facilities and recent test site.; 2c x 4 inches; 96.3 mm x 101 mm;
Officers from the Korea Meteorological Administration point at the epicenter of seismic waves in North Korea, at the National Earthquake and Volcano Center of the Korea Meteorological Administration in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea said it conducted a powerful hydrogen bomb test Wednesday, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, would be a huge jump in Pyongyang's quest to improve its still-limited nuclear arsenal. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
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North Korea last launched a long-range rocket in December 2012, sending into orbit an object it described as a communications satellite.

The new time frame was set amid rising expectations that a launch was likely to happen soon, with U.S. government sources on Friday saying North Korea could be ready by the U.S. Super Bowl kickoff on Sunday, which will be Monday in Korea.

Satellite images taken this week of North Korea's Sohae rocket launch site show apparent fueling activity seen in the past shortly before a rocket launch, said Washington-based 38 North, a North Korea-monitoring project.

North Korean state media has not reported on the changed schedule.

On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke by telephone with President Xi Jinping of China, North Korea's main ally and neighbor, and agreed that a North Korean launch would represent a "provocative and destabilizing action," the White House said.

Obama and Xi also said they would coordinate efforts to respond to North Korea's nuclear test last month and said they would not accept North Korea as a nuclear weapon state.

"The leaders emphasized the importance of a strong and united international response to North Korea's provocations, including through an impactful UN Security Council Resolution," the White House said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi criticized North Korea in remarks made on Friday in Namibia, according to a report released on the Chinese foreign ministry's website, calling on the UN Security Council to take further action.

The United States and China have appeared divided over how to respond to North Korea, with Washington urging tougher sanctions and Beijing stressing the need for dialog.

Japan has said it would shoot down the rocket if it threatens the country, and on Saturday accelerated the deployment of two additional PAC-3 missile units in response to the revised launch time frame, a Japanese defense ministry official said. (Additional reporting by Jack Kim in Seoul and Matthew Miller in Beijing; Writing by Tony Munroe; Editing by Robert Birsel and Elaine Hardcastle)

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