PYONGYANG (Reuters) - North Korea said on Wednesday it was injecting fuel into a long-range rocket "as we speak" ahead of a launch condemned by its neighbors and the West.
The launch is set to take place between Thursday and next Monday and has prompted neighbors such as the Philippines to re-route their air traffic just in case.
Japan said it would shoot down the rocket if it crossed its airspace.
The launch of the Unha-3 rocket, which North Korea says will merely put a weather satellite into space, breaches U.N. sanctions imposed to prevent Pyongyang from developing a missile that could carry a nuclear warhead.
It coincides with the 100th birthday celebrations of the founder of North Korea, Kim Il-sung, whose grandson, Kim Jong-un, now rules. Kim Il-sung died in 1994.
"I think the fuel injection will be completed at an appropriate date," Paek Chang-ho, head of the satellite control centre of the Korean Committee of Space Technology, told a group of foreign journalists in the North Korea capital, Pyongyang.
He would not comment on when the fuel injection would be complete. "And as for the exact timing of the launch, it will be decided by my superiors", Paek said.
Regional powers said the launch is a disguised test of the North's long-range missile.
South Korea, which remains technically at war with the North after their 1950-53 conflict ended with a truce rather than a peace treaty, warned Pyongyang it would deepen its isolation if it went ahead with the launch.
Security sources in Seoul, citing satellite images, have said that North Korea is also preparing a third nuclear test following the rocket launch, something it did in 2009, and a move bound to trigger further condemnation from the West.
(Reporting by Maxim Duncan, Writing by Nick Macfie, Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)