North Korea has said that it would be ready to launch its controversial Unha-3 long-range rocket as planned.

Space officials allowed foreign journalists a rare chance to see the rocket on Sunday. Reporters said all three stages of the Unha-3 rocket were very visible on the launch pad at the new Tongchang-ri space facility.

Ryu Kum-chol, of the space development department, made an announcement to foreign journalists in a conference in Pyongyang.

"As you have already seen on the 8th of April during your visit to the launch site, the assembly and preparation for the launch is being done. And we've already announced that the launch will happen between the 12th to 16th of April."

A Pentagon spokesman and his South Korean counterpart said both leaders would regard the launch ''as a serious provocation.'' Japan and South Korea have warned they will shoot the rocket down if it threatens their territory. While three Asian airlines, have made changes to flight paths to avoid the rocket.

The launch is due to coincide with the 100th anniversary celebrations of the country's founder, Kim Il-sun.