North Korea has fired a long-range rocket

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5 Things to Know About North Korea's Nuclear Proclamation


North Korea has fired a long-range rocket which critics see as cover for a banned missile test.

On Friday, US intelligence agencies announced that North Korea could possibly launch the rocket on Sunday since satellite images taken over North Korea's Sohae rocket launch site showed apparent fueling activity.

Activity at the site was consistent with a launch in the time frame given by Pyongyang, US officials said.

North Korea has told UN agencies it will launch a rocket carrying what it called an earth observation satellite some time between Feb. 8 and Feb. 25, triggering international opposition from governments that see it as a long-range missile test.

"In the past, such activity has occurred one to two weeks prior to a launch event and would be consistent with North Korea's announced launch window," the group said.

See photos below of Japan's military alert about the rocket launch:
16 PHOTOS
NTP: Japan military on alert over North Korea's planned rocket launch
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North Korea has fired a long-range rocket
In this undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, accompanied by military officers, inspects air drill at an undisclosed airbase in North Korea. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service) JAPAN OUT UNTIL 14 DAYS AFTER THE DAY OF TRANSMISSION
A Japan Self-Defense Force member stands by a PAC-3 Patriot missile unit deployed for North Korea's rocket launch at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016. Japan's Defense Ministry installed missile interceptors at their headquarters in central Tokyo on Friday amid signs that North Korea may be preparing to launch a rocket or missile. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
A PAC-3 missile launcher is deployed on the grounds of the defence ministry in Tokyo on January 29, 2016. Japan had ordered on January 29 its military to be ready to destroy any missile fired by North Korea that threatens the country as concerns mount that Pyongyang is preparing a rocket launch. AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS JAPAN OUT / AFP / JIJI PRESS / JIJI PRESS (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - JANUARY 30 : Patriot PAC-3 missile batteries is seen is the courtyard of the Japan Defense Ministry as Japan armed is in on high alert after satellite images showed North Korea was preparing to test launch a long-range missile. Japan's defence minister Gen Nakatani has ordered to target and shoot down any North Koreas rmissile threaten Japan territory. (Photo by David Mareuil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Japan Self-Defense Force member walks past a PAC-3 Patriot missile unit deployed for North Korea's rocket launch at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016. Japan's Defense Ministry installed missile interceptors at their headquarters in central Tokyo on Friday amid signs that North Korea may be preparing to launch a rocket or missile. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
TOKYO, JAPAN - JANUARY 30 : Security police stand guard at the entrance of the North Korea building in Tokyo, Japan, on January 30, 2016. Japan armed is in on high alert after satellite images showed North Korea was preparing to test launch a long-range missile. (Photo by David Mareuil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - JANUARY 30 : A Japanese soldier is seen close a Patriot PAC-3 missile batterie systeme control in the courtyard of the Japan Defense Ministry, on January 30, 2016, as Japan armed is in on high alert after satellite images showed North Korea was preparing to test launch a long-range missile. Japan's defence minister Gen Nakatani has ordered to target and shoot down any North Koreas rmissile threaten Japan territory. (Photo by David Mareuil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Soldiers walk beside PAC-3 missile launchers as they are seen in position on the grounds of the defence ministry in Tokyo on January 30, 2016. Japan had ordered on January 29 its military to be ready to destroy any missile fired by North Korea that threatens the country as concerns mount that Pyongyang is preparing a rocket launch. AFP PHOTO / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA / AFP / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA (Photo credit should read TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)
Japan Self-Defense Force's PAC-3 Patriot missile unit deployed for North Korea's rocket launch at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016. Japan's Defense Ministry installed missile interceptors at their headquarters in central Tokyo on Friday amid signs that North Korea may be preparing to launch a rocket or missile. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
TOKYO, JAPAN - JANUARY 30 : Security police stand guard at the entrance of the North Korea building in Tokyo, Japan, on January 30, 2016. Japan armed is in on high alert after satellite images showed North Korea was preparing to test launch a long-range missile. (Photo by David Mareuil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - JANUARY 30 : Security police stand guard at the entrance of the North Korea building in Tokyo, Japan, on January 30, 2016. Japan armed is in on high alert after satellite images showed North Korea was preparing to test launch a long-range missile. (Photo by David Mareuil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - JANUARY 30 : Japan Defense Ministry building is seen in Tokyo, Japan, on January 30, 2016, as Japan armed is in on high alert after satellite images showed North Korea was preparing to test launch a long-range missile. Japan's defence minister Gen Nakatani has ordered to target and shoot down any North Koreas rmissile threaten Japan territory. (Photo by David Mareuil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A man walks past a PAC-3 Patriot missile unit deployed for North Korea's rocket launch at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016. Japan's Defense Ministry installed missile interceptors at their headquarters in central Tokyo on Friday amid signs that North Korea may be preparing to launch a rocket or missile. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
A PAC-3 missile launcher is seen in position on the grounds of the defence ministry in Tokyo on January 30, 2016. Japan had ordered on January 29 its military to be ready to destroy any missile fired by North Korea that threatens the country as concerns mount that Pyongyang is preparing a rocket launch. AFP PHOTO / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA / AFP / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA (Photo credit should read TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)
A guard rides a bicycle past a PAC-3 Patriot missile unit deployed for North Korea's rocket launch at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016. Japan's Defense Ministry installed missile interceptors at their headquarters in central Tokyo on Friday amid signs that North Korea may be preparing to launch a rocket or missile. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
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On Friday, US 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.

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

Earlier on Friday, Xi told South Korea's president that China was dedicated to maintaining peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.

Space launch or ballistic missile test?

The 38 North report said activity could also be seen around a building at the launch site used in the past to receive and assemble rocket stages.

It said the imagery showed vehicles including one or two buses and a crane, a level of activity similar to that seen before the previous launch in 2012.

The group said the images indicated no significant changes at the launch pad itself, where work platforms on the gantry towers remained folded forward. It said coverings obscured whether a space-launch vehicle was present on the pad.

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.

Coming so soon after North Korea's fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6, a rocket launch would raise concern that it plans to fit nuclear warheads on its missiles, giving it the capability to strike South Korea, Japan and possibly the US West Coast.

US Pacific Command said it was closely monitoring the situation and had many missile defense assets in the region that would provide "a robust defense."

"No one should doubt that US Pacific Command forces are prepared to protect the American homeland and defend our allies in South Korea and Japan," said Pacific Command spokesman US Air Force Captain Cody Chiles.

US Pacific Command said it had Aegis ballistic missile defense systems, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense batteries and the Sea-Based X-Band Radar in the region, which would work with Japanese and South Korean militaries to detect the launch.

The USS Benfold, a guided-missile destroyer, arrived on Friday in Otaru, Japan, one of five US destroyers equipped with Aegis ballistic missile defense systems that are girding for the potential launch, according to several sources.

Harris also told reporters after his speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington that it made sense to put a mobile missile-defense system known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in South Korea.

The THAAD system's mobility and strategic battery-unit placement is designed to counter threats around the globe. In April 2013, the Pentagon deployed a THAAD battery to Guam in order to deter North Korean provocations and further defend the Pacific region.

The THAAD missile does not carry a warhead, instead designed to use pure kinetic energy to deliver "hit-to-kill" lethality to ballistic missiles inside or outside of the atmosphere.

The ships are spread out around the region to protect installations in Japan, Guam and South Korea, and to track the first and second stages rocket boosters as they fall to earth after the launch.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal, Ayesha Rascoe and Mark Hosenball in Washington and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by David Alexander and James Dalgleish)

See photos of North Korea's nuclear test below:
21 PHOTOS
North Korea Nuclear Test
See Gallery
North Korea has fired a long-range rocket
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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