With Iran supposedly sitting down on the bargaining table for one last, soon to be failed, effort at diffusing the nuclear situation, the key geopolitical event this week will be the launch of North Korea's Unha-3 rocket, which the country insists is a peaceful launch, and the satellite contained is for scientific research. Others are not as optimistic, and Japan has already taken precautions to intercept the rocket should it get precariously close to Tokyo. Even China has cautioned against such a launch. The tentative launch window to commemorate the 100th birthday of NK founder Kim Il-Sung is set for April 12-16. So what does the rocket look like? Here it is: up close and personal.
And a clip:
More from CNN:
North Korea insists this is a peaceful launch, the satellite for scientific research. The United States and its allies are more dubious. To much of the world this country, still technically at war, is taking yet another step towards perfecting a long range missile that could strike American cities.
"I'm very disturbed by these claims," the head of the launch site says.
Can you deny it is a missile? I ask.
"Look for yourself," he replies. "Does it look like a missile to you? This is why we invited you here."
True, North Korea has taken an historic step. This is unprecedented access, bringing media from around the world to a highly sensitive site that had been hidden from view. As I step from our train, the launch pad and rocket are clearly visible nestled against a hill in the distance.
Up close, we get the grand tour. Not only taken to the base of the rocket itself, but to the control center and the small satellite North Korea maintains will be fired into orbit.
This is not the first time this reclusive nation has carried out such tests. There was a failed launch in 2006 and another slightly more successful in 2009. Still, analysts say along with its nuclear program, Pyongyang has continued refining its missile technology. A successful launch this time, warn international observers, would show that North Korea could deliver an object anywhere on the planet.
After the death of the so-called Dear Leader, Kim Jong il, last December there were brief flickers of hope his son and successor Kim Jong Un, still under 30, may begin to reform the country. U.S envoys sat down with North Korean officials in Beijing in February and promptly announced a new food aid deal. But this launch has scuttled any optimism.