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North Korea sends its first tweet over 3G service

North Korea's 3G cellular network is up and running, as proven by a warm "hello" sent out through Twitter. 3G service is new to North Korea, but its own citizens cannot use it. 

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Foreigners speak with sales person at a Koryolink cellphone rental booth, asking about mobile phone service at Pyongyang Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korean citizens will not have access to the new 3G mobile Internet service.

Jon Chol Jin/AP Photo

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"Hello world from comms center in #Pyongyang."

That Twitter missive, sent Monday from Koryolink's main service center in downtown Pyongyang using my iPhone, marked a milestone for North Korea: It was believed to be the first tweet sent from a cellphone using the country's new 3G mobile data service.

Later, as we were driving through Pyongyang, I used my iPhone to snap a photo of a new roadside banner referring to North Korea's controversial Feb. 12 nuclear test while AP's Chief Asia photographer David Guttenfelder shot an image of a commuter walking beneath a bridge at dusk. We uploaded these images to Instagram geotagged "Pyongyang."

Pretty ordinary stuff in the world of social media, but revolutionary for North Korea, a country with an intricate set of rules designed to stage manage the flow of images and information both inside and beyond its borders.

In the past, rules were strict for tourists visiting North Korea. On a bus journey across the Demilitarized Zone into the border city of Kaesong in 2008, we were told: No cellphones, no long camera lenses, no shooting photos without permission. The curtains were drawn to prevent us from looking outside as we drove through the countryside, and through the cracks we could see soldiers stationed along the road with red flags. We were warned they'd raise those flags and stop the bus for inspection if they spotted a camera pointed out the window. As we left North Korea, immigration officials went through our cameras, clicking through the photos to make sure we weren't taking home any images that were objectionable.

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