PYONGYANG - North Korea said on Wednesday it was injecting fuel into a long-range rocket "as we speak" ahead of a launch condemned by its neighbors and the West.

The launch is set to take place between Thursday and next Monday and has prompted neighbors such as the Philippines to re-route their air traffic just in case.

Japan said it would shoot down the rocket if it crossed its airspace.

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

It coincides with the 100th birthday celebrations of the founder of North Korea, Kim Il-sung, whose grandson, Kim Jong-un, now rules. Kim Il-sung died in 1994.

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