North Korea is close to developing a new earth observation satellite as part of what it calls its legitimate space programme.
The news has been announced by state media of the communist country one month ahead of the 70th anniversary of the formation of the ruling Worker’s Party of Korea, which is expected to be celebrated with a long-range rocket launch.
"The National Aerospace Development Administration (NADA) is pushing forward at a final phase the development of a new earth observation satellite," North Korea’s KCNA news agency quoted the director of NADA as saying.
"Successful progress made in reconstructing and expanding satellite launching grounds for higher-level satellite lift-off has laid a firm foundation for dynamically pushing ahead with the nation's development of space science," the director said.
The move will likely anger the UN Security Council, which has passed a resolution prohibiting the rebellious east Asian country from developing and using ballistic missile technology.
"The world will clearly see a series of satellites of Songun Korea soaring into the sky at the times and locations determined by the WPK Central Committee," KCNA news agency said, with Songun referring to its "military first" policy.
Indications that North Korea may be preparing for a missile launch have been supported by satellite imagery analysed by 38 North, the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University in July. The images showed upgrades made to North Korea’s main satellite launch site near the west coast.
But South Korea's defence minister said last week there were no indications of actual preparations for a missile launch.
North Korea has an arsenal of various missiles and is believed to be developing a miniaturised nuclear warhead and an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
In 2012, North Korea launched what is generally considered a long-range rocket, putting what it said was a satellite into orbit. Pyongyang called it a space launch vehicle, but the international community said it was a missile that violated UN Security Council resolutions.
On Tuesday, North Korea announced its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon was operating and it was working to improve the "quality and quantity" of its weapons which it could use against the United States at "any time".
"All the nuclear facilities in Yongbyon including the uranium enrichment plant and 5 MW graphite-moderated reactor were rearranged, changed or readjusted and they started normal operation," the KCNA news agency said, quoting the director of its atomic agency.
"If the US and other hostile forces persistently seek their reckless hostile policy towards the DPRK and behave mischievously, the DPRK is fully ready to cope with them with nuclear weapons any time," the director was quoted as saying.
The comments follow a declaration by the North in 2013 vowing to restart all nuclear facilities, including the main nuclear reactor in Yongbyon.
It marked the first acknowledgement since then that the plant, which has been the source of fissile material used in the country's atomic weapons programme, is operational, experts said.