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North Korea 'moves up satellite rocket launch date'

North Korea has reportedly shortened the time frame for its planned long-range rocket launch, according to Japanese and South Korean officials. The rocket could now be launched as early as Sunday, February 7.

The South Korean and

Japanese governments

said on Saturday that a controversial North Korean rocket could now be launched between Sunday, February 7, and the following Sunday, February 14.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency cited an anonymous government official in Seoul as saying Pyongyang had informed the UN's International Maritime Organization (IMO) of the change to the time frame for the launch.

South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun said the North did not inform international organizations of any additional changes to their launch plan. He added that the anticipated flight path for the rocket remains unchanged.

The Japanese government also announced that North Korea informed the IMO of the amended plans.

IMO confirmation of the reports was not immediately available. Reuters news agency reported that the International Telecommunication Union - another UN agency - was not aware of North Korea's revised launch time frame.

North Korea says the rocket will be used in an attempt to put a satellite into orbit.

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North Korea tops agenda at US-China talks

Major UN violation

On Tuesday, North Korea told IMO it planned to launch the rocket between February 8 and February 25, insisting that the launch was part of its purely scientific space program. The announcement unleashed

international censure from outside governments

who suspect the launch is actually a chance to test intercontinental ballistic missile technology.

On Friday, US President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping,

agreed on the need for an "impactful" response

if Pyongyang went ahead with the rocket launch.

Current UN sanctions prohibit North Korea from any launch which makes use of ballistic technology. The pending rocket launch would be the latest in a series of major violations of UN Security Council resolutions after the country's fourth nuclear test last month.

rs/tj (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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