April 10 - A Reuters journalist on a government-guided tour ahead of North Korea's rocket launch, reports from the scene. Maxim Duncan reports.
We're part of a group of foreign journalists allowed into North Korea to report on celebrations for the 100th birthday of the country's founding father, Kim Il-Sung. While we can only report where they take us, we've been freely filming streets as we've been ferried around, which only a few years ago, was still impossible. The focus of most people's attention is this, the Unhwa-3 rocket. On Sunday we were given rare access to the launch site. In the distance behind me is a rocket that the North Korean government says will take a satellite into space between the 12th and the 15th of this month. The North Korean's say they have every right to take a satellite into space but the US has condemned the move, saying they'll suspend 240 thousand tons of food aid if the launch goes ahead. Well, it's very exciting to be here, I'm afraid it'll be our only chance. It's unlikely we'll be able to attend the launch itself. We'll be watching it on TV along with the rest of the North Korean people. The slow 5 hour train journey Northwest of Pyongyang to get to the launch site was an adventure in itself. Now, they've decided to take us to see this rocket launch site by train, and this is fantastic for us as it gives us an opportunity to see so much of the North Korean countryside. You have to remember that most foreigners that come to North Korea don't get past Pyongyang, which in many ways is a showcase capital. The standards of living are much much higher than they would be here in the countryside. Passing it, you really feel a strong reminder of the challenges that this country faces espeically as it plans to declare itself a strong and prosperous nation next week. As we wait for the launch and celebrations, our hosts have organized a series of other reporting activities to keep us occupied. Well, yesterday we went to visit the launch site, and now we're back in the stables for tourists visiting North Korea. Today, we're visiting the birthplace of Kim il-Sung, the country's founder and eternal president, and it's very much a pilgrimage site for the North Korean people. We've still got nine days to film and we have no idea of what we'll be doing. We expect a parade on the 15th for Kim il-Sung's birthday but otherwise we have absolutely no idea. (Maxim Duncan, reporting for Reuters from Pyongyang, North Korea)