North Korea recently informed U.N. agencies that it plans to launch a satellite into outer space. The launch is believed to be slated for sometime between April 4 and April 8 of this year.
According to reports by the United States, the North Koreans are believed to have placed what appears to be a long range ballistic missile on its launch pad.
U.S. and South Korean officials have both said that North Korea is actually preparing to test fire a long range missile under the guise of a satellite launch.
If this is in fact a long range ballistic missile test, officials expect the missile to come down in Pacific Ocean after passing over Japan. A U.N. Security Council resolution in 2006 banned North Korea from conducting any ballistic missile testing. Japanese officials have stated that they could shoot down the object whether it is a missile or a satellite, but however will probably not do so.
Japan will have little over ten minutes to react to a launch of any type from North Korea.
The US has stated that they will know with in three minutes of the launch if the intention is to attain orbit for a satellite payload delivery or if the launch is in fact a missile test.
Many believe that this is the North Korean Taepodong-2 missile. The Taepodong-2 is thought to have a tactical flight range of about 4,200 miles, which if correct would put Alaska and Hawaii with in range.
The South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Moon Tae-Young has publicly stated that "The South Korean government believes that if the North conducts its launch despite continuous warnings of the South Korean government and the international community, it is a provocative action that constitutes a serious threat to the security of northeast Asia and the Korean peninsula,""The launching of the long-range rocket is a clear violation of the U.N. Security Council Resolution No. 1718, and we strongly urge North Korea to immediately stop such measures."