SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea suggested today that it is preparing a rocket launch, claiming the country has the right to "space development" — a term Pyongyang has used in the past to disguise a long-range missile test as a satellite launch.
Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency made the suggestion on the 67th birthday of leader Kim Jong Il, and accused the United States and other countries of trying to block the country's "peaceful scientific research" by linking it to a long-range missile test.
"One will come to know later what will be launched" from North Korea, KCNA said.
When the North test-fired a long-range missile in 1998, it said it put a satellite into orbit.
The KCNA report comes amid growing international pressure on the communist country to back out of apparent plans to carry out a test launch of a missile believed capable of reaching U.S. territory.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who last week urged North Korea to avoid provocations, was on her way to the region. North Korea is expected to be a key topic for her visit to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China.
Pyongyang has reportedly moved a long-range Taepodong-2 missile, its most advanced, to a launch site on the country's northeastern coast. South Korean media have said a launch could come late this month.
Seoul's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper said today that the North had moved all necessary equipment to fire a missile to the Musudan-ni site and that a launch could be ready earlier than expected. The report cited unnamed government officials.