SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea has begun fueling a long-range rocket for an impending launch, a news report said Thursday, as President Barack Obama warned the liftoff would be a "provocative act" that would generate a U.N. Security Council response.
North Korea says it will send a communications satellite into orbit on a multistage rocket sometime from this Saturday to Wednesday. The United States, South Korea and Japan think the reclusive country is using the launch to test long-range missile technology; they've warned the move would violate a Security Council resolution banning the North from ballistic activity.
Regional powers have also begun to deploy ships to monitor the launch, and Japan is preparing to intercept any debris that might fall if the launch goes awry — moves that have prompted several threats of retaliation from Pyongyang, including one Thursday.
The North has said debris from the rocket could fall off Japan's northern coast, so Tokyo has deployed battleships with anti-missile systems to the area and set up Patriot missile interceptors. It says it has no intention of trying to shoot down the rocket itself.
"If Japan imprudently carries out an act of intercepting our peaceful satellite, our people's army will hand a thunderbolt of fire to not only interceptor means already deployed, but also key targets," said a report Thursday by the North's official Korean Central News Agency that quoted the general staff of its military.
Stay tune for updates this weekend.