North Korea accidentally bombed itself when it conducted a missile test earlier in 2017.
On April 28, the hermit kingdom launched the Hwasong-12/KN17 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) that went astray and accidentally hit the city of Tokchon, which has a population of over 200,000 people.
According to a U.S. government official with knowledge of Pyongyang’s nuclear program, the missile’s first stage engine failed after just a single minute of the flight. The Hwasong-12 never flew higher than 70 kilometers and then crashed into the Chongsin-dong in Tokchon.
It is not yet clear whether the catastrophic crash resulted in any casualties, but publicly available satellite images show damage to industrial complex and agricultural buildings, according to The Diplomat.
The missiles are run by liquid fuel that can cause huge explosions, even without a warhead, so the failed testing indicates dire consequences for North Korea and its neighboring countries.
North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un has launched two ballistic missiles since August 2017, but both were successfully able to fly over Japan and land cleanly into the Pacific Ocean, as was intended. However, this particular incident shows there is a very real possibility that future missiles could explode prematurely over Japan, sparking an active war in northeast Asia.
These dangers may explain why the hermit kingdom chose to use the seaside town of Sinpo as its initial testing site for the two failed Hwasong-12 missiles launches in April. Any malfunction that would result in the explosion of the missiles would have a lower probability of striking populated cities. However, since April, Kim has not conducted any further missile testing from Sinpo, except for launching four submarine-launched ballistic missile ejection tests.
In fact, North Korea designated new sites for missile testing allegedly to show off the flexibility of its Strategic Rocket Force. It also carried out ballistic missile launches from a restricted area at Sunan Airport in Pyongyang. The probability of similar accidents occurring over the capital city or other big cities of DPRK also remains high.
April 2017 remained a highly tense period for both the United States and North Korea. President Donald trump threatened to send an “armada” to North Korea, which turned out to be a bluff. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned the country would conduct a military strike against the hermit kingdom if it tested an ICBM.
However, their bizarre, war-mongering rhetoric continued, with both of them most recently comparing the size of the buttons on their desks.
Banner/Thumbnail credit: KCNA via REUTERS