SEOUL - North Korea has assembled on its launch pad all three stages of a long-range rocket it plans to launch this month in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, a South Korean government official said Wednesday, according to Yonhap News Agency.
"North Korea is believed to have completed the installation of a long-range rocket on the launch pad" at the Sohae Space Center, located at Tongchang-ri in the country's northwest, the official was quoted as saying on condition of anonymity.
"Some workers are pulling out of the site," the official added.
Officials told Yonhap that North Korea is now expected to install support equipment, such as radar and cameras, before fueling the rocket.
North Korea announced Saturday it will launch its Kwangmyongsong-3 polar-orbiting earth observation satellite by carrier rocket Unha-3 in the period between Dec. 10 and 22.
South Korea, the United States and Japan view it as a disguised test of a long-range ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and have vowed to cooperate in their responses to the launch if it goes ahead.
It would be the North's second launch attempt under current leader Kim Jong Un, who took power following his father's death last December.
North Korea's previous attempt last April was unsuccessful and drew strong international condemnation.
On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon urged North Korea to reconsider its decision, saying any such launch would heighten tension in the region and constitute a "clear violation" of Security Council resolution 1874, under which the country is prohibited from conducting any launch using ballistic missile technology.
Ban called on Pyongyang to suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program and reestablish its moratorium on missile launches, as required by the Security Council.
On Monday, North Korea notified the International Maritime Organization of preliminary coordinates that predict the rocket's first stage would fall into the Yellow Sea between the Korean Peninsula and China, and the second stage off the Philippines.