When it test-fired the shorter-range Taepodong-1 missile over Japan in 1998, North Korea claimed to have put a satellite into orbit.

North Korean arsenal

Military analysts believe North Korea has more than 1,000 missiles of various ranges, including:

Rodong - estimated range 1,400km; can strike anywhere in South Korea

Taepodong 1– estimated range 2,500km; thought to be the type shot over Japan in 1998

Taepodong-2 - estimated range of 6,700km; believed to be able to reach US military bases in Japan, Guam and even parts of Alaska.

Taepodong-2 missile was test-fired into sea of Japan in July 2006, sparking international condemnation. But US and South Korea say test was unsuccessful.

The committee did not say when the launch would occur but it is to take place at Hwadae in the country's northeast, widely believed to be the launch site for the North's Taepodong-2 missile.

The Taepodong-2, North Korea's most advanced missile with an estimated range of 6,700km, is thought to be capable of hitting Japan and even parts of Alaska.

South Korea's military said on Monday that the North "recently" deployed a new, shorter range missile that could hit the US military outpost on the Pacific island of Guam, the northern tip of Australia, much of Russia and India.

A South Korea defence ministry report released on Monday also claimed the North was "presumed" to have secured about 40kg of nuclear bomb-making plutonium from reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods from its Yongbyon reactor.

The South Korean report also claims that the size of the North Korean military had grown to 1.19 million, an increase of 20,000 from 2006, while the number of its special forces trained to infiltrate South Korea had increased 50 per cent to 180,000.

Pyongyang carried out its first nuclear test in October 2006, but most analysts believe it is still some time away from developing a nuclear warhead to fit on a missile.

US warning

Nonetheless, the US has put pressure on the North to scrap plans to launch the Taepodong-2.

Hillary Clinton, who visited the North's neighbours South Korea and Japan last week on her first foreign tour as US secretary of state, warned Pyongyang against any missile test.

"The possible missile launch that North Korea is talking about would be very unhelpful in moving our relationship forward," she said.

She also said Pyongyang could achieve a peace treaty with the US that would yield aid and the restoration of diplomatic ties if it ended its nuclear and missile programmes.

"We must advance our efforts to secure the complete and verifiable denuclearisation of North Korea," she said.