North Korea has begun pumping fuel into a rocket whose launch later this week looks set to exacerbate tensions between the isolated Asian state and the international community.
“We are injecting fuel as we speak. It has started," Paek Chang-ho who heads North Korean satellite control centre of the Korean Committee of Space Technology, told journalists on Wednesday.
Paek however refused to specify the exact date of the launch, saying that “it [the launch] will be decided by my superiors.”
North Korea says the rocket will put a weather satellite into orbit to mark the 100th anniversary of the country's founder, Kim Il-sung. It also says the launch is in compliance with the Space Treaty, which guarantees every state the right to carry out space programs.
But the international community suspects the rocket is part of a ballistic missile program.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that any launch by North Korea would be a “serious, clear violation” of the UN Security Council resolutions.
South Korea and Japan have said they will shoot down the rocket if it threatens their territory.