The New York Times writes the history this way:
North Korea test-fired at least six missiles over the Sea of Japan on Wednesday morning, including an intercontinental missile that apparently failed or was aborted 42 seconds after it was launched, White House and Pentagon officials said.
The small barrage of launchings, which took place over more than four hours, came in defiance of warnings from President Bush and the governments of Japan, South Korea and China. Of the launchings, which the United States and Japan condemned, intelligence officials focused most of their attention on the intercontinental missile, called the Taepodong 2, which American spy satellites have been watching on a remote launching pad for more than a month.
It is designed to be capable of reaching Alaska, and perhaps the West Coast of the United States, but American officials who tracked its launching said it fell into the Sea of Japan before its first stage burned out.
"The Taepodong obviously was a failure — that tells you something about capabilities," Stephen Hadley, President Bush's national security adviser, told reporters in a phone call on Tuesday evening in Washington. But other officials warned that even a failed launching was of some use to the North Koreans, because it will help them diagnose what went wrong with the liquid-fueled rocket.