North Korea said Tuesday it is preparing to shoot a satellite into orbit, its clearest reference yet to an impending launch that neighbors and the US suspect will be a provocative test of a long-range missile. The statement from the North's space technology agency comes amid growing international concern that the communist nation is gearing up to fire a version of its most advanced missile - capable of reaching the US - in coming days, in violation of a UN Security Council resolution. North Korea asserted last week that it bears the right to "space development" - words the regime has used in the past to disguise a missile test. In 1998, North Korea test-fired a Taepodong-1 ballistic missile over Japan and then claimed to have put a satellite into orbit. "The preparations for launching experimental communications satellite Kwangmyongsong-2 by means of delivery rocket Unha-2 are now making brisk headway" at a launch site in Hwadae in the northeast, the North's agency said in a statement carried by Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency. The report did not say when the launch would take place.