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North Korea: Our rocket is ready to launch

Bobby Yip / Reuters

Journalists escorted to site for launch that is stirring tensions

Space officials in North Korea told NBC Tuesday that all assembly and preparations for its new satellite and rocket have been completed, saying it will be launched sometime between Thursday and Monday.

Speaking at a press conference in the capital, Pyongyang, the experts refused to answer the question about whether the rocket has been fueled yet, but they said assembly and other preparations are done.

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They also repeated their insistence that that satellite is not a cover for a missile test, adding that "the right to have a satellite is a universal right of every nation."

Regarding U.S. concerns, the official said, "These are things that shouldn't be worried about."

NBC space expert on North Korea satellite launch: 'It's not a military missile ... but it's darn close'

The launch of the Unha-3 rocket, which North Korea says will merely put a weather satellite into space, breaches U.N. sanctions imposed to prevent Pyongyang from developing a missile that could carry a nuclear warhead.

Russia, a former backer of North Korea which has boosted economic ties with Pyongyang, has denounced the program.

Slideshow: North Korea

The space experts said there is a five-year North Korean space program to develop larger rockets, improve satellite control centers and organize better cameras to observe Earth.

In response to a question about the cost of the satellite, a North Korean Space Tech Committee representative said, "An appropriate amount has been invested."

China on Tuesday reiterated its calls for calm and restraint on the Korean peninsula.

North Korean space officials say they will go along with a planned rocket launch this week.  NBC's Richard Engel reports.

All sides should respect international law to prevent the worsening of tensions on the peninsula, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a daily news briefing.

A rare peek inside North Korea

Another nuclear test would almost certainly alarm neighbors and infuriate the West, which has long sought to curb the North's nuclear ambitions.

Meanwhile a U.S.-based rights organization Tuesday published a report saying at least 150,000 North Koreans are languishing in gulags.

The U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea said its report was based on extensive interviews with over 60 defectors and more than 40 satellite photos of North Korean political prisoner camps.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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