North Korea is loading a Taepodong rocket in anticipation of the launch of a communications satellite next month, US officials said.
Regional powers, however, worry that the claim is a cover for the launch of a long-range missile capable of reaching Alaska. In 1998 North Korea faked a satellite launch to cloak a missile development test.
The US National Intelligence Director, Dennis Blair, said this month that all the indications were that Pyongyang would, in fact, launch a satellite. South Korea, America and Japan have urged North Korea to refrain from going ahead with the launch, expected to take place between April 4 and 8, calling it a violation of a UN Security Council resolution barring the country from ballistic activity.
In 2006 North Korea launched a Taepodong2 long-range missile that blew up less than a minute into flight. The satellite rocket and the missile use similar technology.
Pyongyang insists that it bears the right to develop its space programme and has warned the US, Japan and their allies not to interfere with the latest launch.
In early March, North Korea told two U.N. agencies it plans to launch a communications satellite sometime between April 4 and 8. The unprecedented disclosure is seen as trying to fend off international condemnation expected after what many believe will be a test of long-range missile technology.
Today in Mexico City, US Secretary of State Clinton said a North Korean missile launch, for any purpose, would be a provocative act and a violation of U.N. Security Council resolution 1718 - approved after its 2006 nuclear test-demanding an end to Pyonyang's nuclear weapon and missile programs.
"We have made it very clear that the North Koreans pursue this pathway at a cost, and with consequences to the six-party [nuclear] talks, which we would like to see revived and moving forward as quickly as possible," said Hillary Clinton. "And we intend to raise this violation of the Security Council resolution, if it goes forward, in the U.N., and coincidentally Mexico will be chairing the Security Council starting in April."