North Korea’s long-range rocket, scheduled to put what it says is a satellite into orbit next week, has been installed on its launch platform, foreign journalists said.
North Korea organized an unprecedented visit to Tongchang-ri space center to show that the Unha-3 rocket is not a disguised ballistic missile, as claimed by the United States and their allies, notably South Korea and Japan.
“To say this is a missile test is really nonsense,” said Jang Myong-Jin, Head of the Space Center.
“This launch was planned long ago, on the occasion of the 100th birthday of (late) President Kim Il-Sung. We are not doing it for provocative purposes.”
For the first time, North Korea allowed some 50 foreign journalists, including from AFP, to go to the new space center built on the Cholsan peninsula, 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Chinese border.
The journalists were able to observe the rocket, painted in white with sky blue lettering, installed on a platform ahead of its scheduled launch sometime between 12-16 April 2012.
The rocket, 30 meters high and with a diameter of 2.5 meters, is scheduled to launch the Kwangmyongsong-3 (Shining Star) satellite into orbit to observe the earth and collect data on forests and natural resources in North Korea, officials said.