Earthquake Detected Near North Korean Nuclear Test Site

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Suspicions are high that North Korea may have carried out another weapons test today after a magnitude-2.9 natural disaster was detected very close to one of their test sites. But South Korea's Meteorological Administration says the quake was natural.

A statement on the US Geological Survey website reads: "This event occurred in the area of the previous North Korean Nuclear tests". In July, North Korea carried out two tests of ballistic missiles, and on August 29 and September 15 it launched two missiles, which flew over Japan's territory.

The US Geological Survey said that the tremor hit at 1.41am (12.41am, Singapore time) with a depth of around 5km.

Kim So-gu, head researcher at the Korea Seismological Institute said: "The explosion from the Sept 3 test had such power that the existing tunnels within the underground testing site might have caved in". The seismic experts and a United Nations nuclear test ban watchdog had referred to the tremor on September 23 as an aftershock of the North's sixth and largest nuclear test.

"I think the Punggye-ri region is now pretty saturated".

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These disturbances are more numerous and widespread than seen after any of the North's previous tests, 38 North has said.

In 2006, North Korea's first detonation triggered a 4.1-magnitude quake. They said it wasn't man-made and didn't appear to cause any damage in the area. Other experts said the quakes might have been caused by landslides or the collapsing of test structures such as tunnels.

North Korea has hinted its next test could be above the ground. On September 3, Pyongyang announced a successful test of a hydrogen bomb.

Tremors, landslides and the latest H-bomb blast have destroyed key parts of the region and the Punggye-ri nuclear site may be abandoned, experts claim.

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