South Korea has urged Pyongyang to refrain from provocative action to coincide with a key anniversary next month. North Korea says it aims to launch peaceful satellites, claiming this as a sovereign right.
South Korea said on Tuesday that the use of ballistic missile technology would contravene UN Security Council resolutions and amount to a provocation.
"Any launch of a ballistic missile by North Korea is a serious act of provocation," South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok told a regular press briefing.
"It is a military threat and a clear violation of the UN resolutions banning (North Korea) from any activities using ballistic missile technology," Kim said.
North Korea's National Aerospace Development Administration director said the country had enjoyed "shining achievements" in the field of space technology. He said scientists and technicians were pushing ahead in a final phase of development for a new Earth observation satellite.
"Space development for peaceful purposes is a sovereign state's legitimate right... and the people… are fully determined to exercise this right no matter what others may say about it," the director told Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency.
Party to set the agenda
The director said the world would "clearly see a series of satellites soaring into the sky at times and locations determined" by the Workers' Party, which celebrates its 70th birthday next month.
The launches are widely viewed as disguised tests of North Korea's long-range missile technology, although North Korea vehemently denies this. Japan was also understood to have voiced its objection to any launch.
North Korea spent decades trying to reach successfully space with a multistage rocket, finally putting its first satellite into space in late 2012. Repeated testing of small-range missiles into the sea have so far gone unpunished.
In tandem with the pursuit of nuclear weapons leading to a series of nuclear tests, North Korea's testing of ballistic missile technology has been described by the US and its allies as a threat to world peace.
The Koreas threatened each other with a war in August after mine explosions that maimed two South Korean soldiers earlier in that month were blamed on Pyongyang.
rc/jil (AFP, AP, Reuters)