By Jack Kim and Ju-min Park
South Korea says North Korea's announcement that it will launch a satellite is really a plan to fire a long-range missile and warns that the North will pay a "severe price" if it goes ahead.
North Korea should immediately call off the planned launch, which is a violation of UN Security Council resolutions, the South's presidential Blue House said in a statement on Wednesday (local time).
Seoul's warning came after the North notified UN agencies late on Tuesday of its plan to launch what it called an "earth observation satellite" some time between February 8 and 25.
"North Korea's notice of the plan to launch a long-range missile, coming at a time when there is a discussion for Security Council sanctions on its fourth nuclear test, is a direct challenge to the international community," the Blue House said.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he will work with the US and others to "strongly demand" that North Korea refrain from what he described as a planned missile launch.
Reports of the planned launch drew fresh US calls for tougher UN sanctions that are already under discussion in response to most recent North Korea's nuclear test.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said the United Nations needed to "send the North Koreans a swift, firm message".
Pyongyang has said it has a sovereign right to pursue a space program by launching rockets, although the US and other governments worry that such launches are missile tests in disguise.
A spokeswoman for the International Maritime Organization, a UN agency, said the agency had been told by North Korea it planned to launch the 'Kwangmyongsong' satellite.
The International Telecommunication Union, another UN agency, also told Reuters North Korea had informed it on Tuesday of plans to launch a satellite with a functional duration of four years in a non-geostationary orbit.
North Korea said the launch would be conducted in the morning one day during the announced period, and notified the coordinates for the locations where the rocket boosters and the cover for the payload would drop.