North Korea first test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4 prompted the Pentagon to assure it can defend the United States against the growing threat © KCNA VIA KNS/AFP STR
North Korea first test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4 prompted the Pentagon to assure it can defend the United States against the growing threat © KCNA VIA KNS/AFP STR

A North Korean missile crashed into one of its own cities after it failed just minutes following its launch, according to a report.

According to the Diplomat magazine, US officials said the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) was initially thought to have disintegrated mid-flight after it was fired on 28 April last year.

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However, new data suggests it landed in the city of Tokchon, around 90 miles north of the secretive communist country’s capital, Pyongyang. Tokchon has a population of around 200,000.

The report, citing a US intelligence source alongside satellite imagery, revealed that the missile likely exploded on impact, causing significant damage to a complex of industrial or agricultural buildings.

After its launch from the Pukchang airfield, the missile flew approximately 24 miles to the north-east, the report stated, adding that it flew no higher than around 43 miles.

A US government source said the missile’s first stage engines failed around a minute after it was launched.

Liquid-fuel missiles can cause massive explosions when they fail, and satellite images from Google Earth taken after the test show a cleared area where a building once stood and damage to a greenhouse caused by debris.

However, as the publication pointed out, it is impossible to verify whether the accidental strike caused any deaths due to the secretive nature of the North Korean regime.