Earthquake Detected Near North Korea's Nuclear Test Site

Frederick Owens
September 24, 2017

The US Geological Survey said on Saturday it could not conclusively confirm whether a magnitude 3.5 quake detected in North Korea was manmade or natural.

China's official Xinhua News Agency said the country's seismic service detected a magnitude 3.4 quake in North Korea and saw the likely cause as an explosion.

The flight, which was disclosed shortly before North Korea's foreign minister was due to address the United Nations, was the farthest north of the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea that any USA fighter jet or bomber has flown in the 21st century, the Pentagon said.

The move escalated tensions with the USA and North Korea's neighbors, and this week its foreign minister said the regime's options included testing a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean.

Pyongyang has launched dozens of missiles this year as it spurs a program aimed at mastering a nuclear-tipped missile that can strike the United States, in addition to its Sept 3 nuclear test.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization, a watchdog group that works to end nuclear testing worldwide, said there were two seismic events Saturday in North Korea, neither of very large magnitude.

The U.S. Geological Survey said it could not conclusively confirm whether the quake, which it measured at magnitude 3.5, was manmade or natural.

"The Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC) is the sole organization in the USA federal government whose mission is to detect and report technical data from foreign nuclear explosions". Previous quakes from North Korea have indicated nuclear tests by the reclusive state, the most recent earlier this month.

"If it doesn't go exactly as planned and the detonation occurs at a lower altitude we could see some EMP-like effects for anything in the area".

A military response from the USA is not likely, even if it was a test.

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China time and had a depth of zero meters, the China Earthquake Networks Center said in a statement, adding it was a suspected blast.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (L) and US President Donald Trump (R).

An official of South Korea's Meteorological Agency said acoustic waves should be detected in the event of a man-made natural disaster.

A secondary tremor detected after that test could have been caused by the collapse of a tunnel at the mountainous site, experts said at the time.

They were responding Friday to reports that North Korea's foreign minister had said his country might conduct such a test.

Tensions have continued to rise around the Korean Peninsula since Pyongyang carried out its sixth nuclear test, prompting a new round of United Nations sanctions.

During his speech before the U.N. General Assembly earlier this week, Trump vowed to "totally destroy North Korea" if provoked.

On Thursday Trump announced new USA sanctions that he said allow targeting of companies and institutions that finance and facilitate trade with North Korea.

"Recent steps in the nuclear disarmament field are encouraging", said Shannon Kile, head of SIPRI's Nuclear Weapons Project. It will also ban imports of textiles from North Korea.

Yet it is still South Korea, and its capital Seoul close to the heavily militarized frontier with the North, that faces the greatest immediate risk in a military conflict.

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