North Korea is loading a Taepodong rocket on its east coast launch pad in anticipation of the launch of a communications satellite early next month, US officials said today. US counterproliferation and intelligence officials have confirmed Japanese news reports of the expected launch between April 4 and 8. North Korea announced its intention to launch the satellite in February. Regional powers worry the claim is a cover for the launch of a long-range missile capable of reaching Alaska. National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair said earlier this month that all indications suggest North Korea will in fact launch a satellite. North Korea faked a satellite launch in 1998 to cloak a missile development test. In 2006, it launched a Taepodong-2 that blew up less than a minute into flight. Both the satellite launch rocket and long-range missile use similar technology, and arms control experts fear even a satellite launch would be a test toward eventually launching a long-range missile. South Korea, the US and Japan have urged North Korea to refrain from launching a satellite or missile, calling it a violation of a UN Security Council resolution barring the country from ballistic activity. North Korea insists it bears the right to develop its space program and warned the US, Japan and its allies not to interfere with the launch. Officials at the South Korea's National Intelligence Service and the Defence Ministry were not available for comment.