Pyongyang had previously warned others not to shoot down a rocket it says it will launch between April 4 and April 8.
“Should US warplanes dare to perpetrate aerial espionage,” North Korea’s state radio warned Wednesday, “our revolutionary forces will shoot them down.” Spy flights, the broadcast made plain, “would be interfering with our preparations for a satellite launch for peaceful purposes.”
The warning reflects North Korea’s insistence that the long-range missile on the launch pad near the northeastern coast will put a satellite into orbit.
But American, South Korean, and Japanese officials say that the real purpose is to test the missile’s ability to deliver a nuclear warhead as far as Alaska or Hawaii.
North Korea accuses the US and South Korea of conducting at least 190 aerial espionage flights over it territory last month. While the number may be exaggerated, experts say such flights are routine.