North Korea is making final preparations for a rocket launch the United States said could come as early as Saturday, pushing ahead with a plan widely seen as a disguised long-range missile test. Analysts said the launch helps North Korean leader Kim Jong-il shore up support after a suspected stroke in August raised questions of his grip on power and bolsters his hand in using military threats to wrangle concessions from global powers. A successful launch also aids one of the few things his state's broken economy can sell overseas, weapons. "We consider the situation as being imminent," one South Korean government official familiar with the subject, who asked not to be named, said on Friday. Another informed official said: "They are in the final stages of launch preparations." North Korea has said it will send a satellite into space between April 4-8 and has the right to do so as a part of a peaceful space program. "They're doing everything consistent with the launch of a space vehicle on April 4," the U.S. defense official said on Thursday on condition of anonymity. South Korea and Japan say the launch is a disguised test of the long-range Taepodong-2 missile, which is designed to carry a warhead to U.S. territory but blew apart about 40 seconds after launch during its only test flight in July 2006. At the United Nations on Thursday, Japan's U.N. ambassador, Yukio Takasu, said his country would request an emergency meeting of the Security Council to discuss a possible response if North Korea launched the missile. The United States, South Korea, and Japan are pushing for U.N. punishment for the launch they say violates U.N. resolutions that ban further ballistic missile tests put in place after the previous Taepodong-2 test and the North's only nuclear test in October 2006. But China, the closest thing North Korea can claim as a major ally, is almost certain to block any new sanctions as well the tightening of existing sanctions that are supposed to halt most arms sales and the import of luxury goods.