North Korea's five-day window to launch a rocket opened Thursday with no confirmed firing, but Asian countries remained on alert as Washington rallied world opinion against the communist state.
The morning timeframe in which North Korea plans to launch its 30-metre rocket came and went with no sign of liftoff from a newly built space centre on the country's northwestern Yellow Sea coast.
But the North said the Unha-3 rocket, ostensibly carrying a satellite payload, could go up any day between now and Monday to coincide with Sunday's centenary of the birth of its founding leader Kim Il-Sung.
Fighter jets were heard roaring across Pyongyang's overcast skies early Thursday as the showcase capital stepped up preparations for mass festivities on Sunday.
North Korea has invited 200 foreign journalists to watch the rocket launch and the weekend commemorations, the largest number of overseas media ever welcomed into the reclusive state. A large television screen has been installed at a media centre in Pyongyang to relay live footage of the blasting off.
WMDs in will
Lee Yun-Keol, a high-ranking North Korean defector who now heads a think-tank in Seoul, said that he had obtained Kim Jong-Il's last will and testament, which urged the state to develop weapons of mass destruction.
Excerpts of the will were published by Japanese weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun based on the document provided by Lee, who worked for North Korea's bodyguard bureau, the organisation in charge of protecting the Kim family.
"Keep in mind that constantly developing and keeping nuclear (weapons), long-range missiles and biochemical weapons is the way to keep peace on the Korean peninsula, and never drop your guard," the will purportedly said.
"We have to win the psychological war with the US. By standing up imposingly as a legitimate nuclear power, we have to weaken American influence in the Korean peninsula and work toward lifting international sanctions to prepare external conditions for economic development," it added.