North Korea Launched IRBM That Accidentally Hit Its Own City

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption North Korea's star ice-skating duo have qualified for the Winter Olympics

Satellite imagery shows extensive damage to a building in Tokchon shortly after Kim Jong-un launched a Hwasong-12 ballistic missile, it has been reported.

The rocket reportedly crashed into the city of Tokchon and seriously damaged industrial or agricultural buildings.

The US Pacific Command said at the time that the test missile was launched from "near" Pukchang Airfield, a previously unused launch site for testing of North Korean ballistic missiles. The location of the crash was previously unknown, but a USA government source told The Diplomat that the missile came down in the city of Tokchon, located approximately 40 miles northeast of the airfield.

The official, who is described as having knowledge of North Korea's weapons programmes, told the Diplomat that the missile's flight lasted just one minute before suffering engine malfunction and travelling 25 miles northeast before crashing down.

"It's impossible to verify if the incident caused any loss of life and, given the time of day the test occurred and the location of the impact, it may be likely that few, if any, casualties resulted from the incident", The Diplomat pointed out. The structural damage was independently confirmed by The Diplomat using publicly available satellite photos.

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The revelation that the missile hit an unintended target raises new questions about the possibility that North Korea could accidentally start a nuclear war if an errant missile were to hit a country like Japan or South Korea. "A slight difference in trajectory may could have resulted in an even more catastrophic accident over a populated region". Reports suggest that the Hwasong-12 missile that was launched but malfunctioned, is the third failed test in a single month (April 2017).

In a New Year's message to the people of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un has also confirmed that he is intending to send an Olympic team to Seoul - but maintained his fiery rhetoric against the United States.

Tokchon, where the missile landed in April 2017, is seen north of Pyongyang.

Fresh UN sanctions and ongoing North Korea missile tests have ratcheted up already high tensions between the hermit nation and the US.

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