AFP - South Korea Tuesday challenged North Korea to present evidence to support its claim that it was preparing to launch a satellite, not a long-range missile.
Defence Minister Lee Sang-Hee said the South believed the North was again preparing to test a long-range missile under the guise of launching a satellite.
"The North claims it is a satellite. Then, it must produce evidence," Lee told the National Assembly.
"If it is a satellite, the North must show it to the public," he said.
Pyongyang's state media earlier Tuesday said the North was preparing to launch a satellite, but did not say when.
It follows weeks of foreign intelligence warnings of a long-range missile test despite calls from the United States and allies for it not to proceed.
"Regardless whether the North launches a satellite or tests a long-range missile, it would pose security threat to the South as the technology involved is about the same," the minister said.
"We're going to trace its trajectory, assuming it is a long-range missile," he said.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency said the North had yet to install a long-range missile on a launch pad, which analysts believe is the real reason behind its announcement of an imminent satellite launch.
Monitoring equipment has been installed but the missile itself has not yet been placed on a pad at Musudan-ri missile base on the northeast coast, it said, quoting an intelligence source.
"Radars and other equipment to trace the trajectory have been installed," the source told Yonhap.
"However, the missile, believed to be a Taepodong-2, has yet to be set up at the launch pad," the source said.
The Taepodong-2 is North Korea's longest-range missile, and in theory could reach Alaska.
Baek Seung-Joo of the state-financed Korea Institute for Defence Analyses said North Korea was likely to launch the rocket around the time of March 8 parliamentary elections.
Leader Kim Jong-Il is expected to be elected again as the chairman of the powerful National Defence Commission for a third five-year term, he said.
"If you put a warhead instead of a satellite, it's a long-range missile," Baek told AFP. "The North is seeking to show off its delivery capability after testing its first nuclear weapon in 2006."
Pyongyang has previously tested a missile under the guise of launching a satellite.