Seoul: South Korea warned North Korea on Tuesday against a possible long-range rocket launch, saying it would be deemed a ballistic missile test and a "serious" provocation violating UN resolutions.
The warning came after the head of North Korea's space programme suggested that Pyongyang was considering a satellite launch to mark the 70th anniversary next month of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK).
Such a move would almost certainly invite fresh international sanctions on the already isolated North and trigger a surge in military tensions on the divided Korean peninsula.
The North insists its rocket launches are intended to put peaceful satellites into orbit, while the United States and its allies see them as disguised ballistic missile tests.
"Any launch of a ballistic missile by North Korea is a serious act of provocation," Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok told a regular press briefing.
"It is a military threat and a clear violation of the UN resolutions banning (North Korea) from any activities using ballistic missile technology," Kim said.
There has been widespread speculation that the North might launch a satellite to mark the WPK anniversary on October 10.
The resulting spike in inter-Korean tensions would jeopardise an October 20-26 reunion being organised with South Korea of families divided by the 1950-53 Korean War.
Echoing recent analysis by US experts of images of the North's main Sohae satellite launch site, Kim stressed that "no particular activities" had been observed so far to suggest a launch was imminent.
His warning was a response to comments Monday by the director of the North's National Aerospace Development Administration that Pyongyang was in the "final phase" of developing a new satellite.
"The world will clearly see a series of satellites... soaring into the sky at the times and locations determined by the WPK central committee," the director, whose name was not given, was quoted as saying by the official KCNA news agency.
Space development is a sovereign right that North Korea intends to exercise "no matter what others might say about it", he added.
North Korea is prohibited under UN Security Council resolutions from carrying out any launch involving ballistic missile technology, although repeated small-range missile tests into the sea have gone unpunished.
Its first, and last, successful satellite launch was of the Unha-3 rocket in December 2012 -- a move that resulted in fresh sanctions and a surge in military tensions that culminated three months later in the North's third nuclear test.