North Korea is set to complete the assembly of its latest rocket by installing the satellite payload on Tuesday, a senior space official said.
"We are expecting to complete assembly by today (Tuesday)," Ryu Kum-Chol, deputy director of the space development department at the communist state's Committee for Space Technology, told foreign journalists in Pyongyang.
Ryu also insisted that debris from the launch, which is scheduled between April 12 and 16 to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of North Korea's founding leader, posed no danger to countries in the region.
"We've chosen a safe trajectory. The first stage will fall 100 miles from land (in the Philippines), and the second stage 120 miles from land," he said. But in case of any problem with the trajectory, the official said that the rocket was "capable of self-destruction" from ground control.
Impoverished but nuclear-armed North Korea says the rocket will propel the 100kg Kwangmyongsong-3 (Shining Star) satellite into orbit to collect data on forests and natural resources within its territory.
However, the United States and other nations say the rocket launch is a pretext for a ballistic missile test, in defiance of United Nations resolutions and a US-North Korean deal concluded just in February.
Russia joined condemnation on Tuesday, saying the rocket launch showed disregard for UN Security Council resolutions.
Flights to be diverted
Asian airlines said they will divert planes from the intended flight path of North Korea's rocket as shipping in the area was warned on Tuesday to beware of falling debris.
Japan's two largest carriers, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, said they will alter the route of flights between Tokyo and Southeast Asian cities. Philippine Airlines said it plans to reroute some of its flights.