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North Korea earthquake: man-made 5.1-magnitude quake detected near nuclear test site

North Korea hydrogen bomb test: 'successful' nuclear bomb a strategic move
 

North Korea has confirmed it conducted a "successful" hydrogen bomb test, according to Agence France-Presse.

The epicentre of the earthquake that hit North Korea at 12:30pm AEDST
The epicentre of the earthquake that hit North Korea at 12:30pm AEDST Photo: USGS

A 5.1-magnitude earthquake was detected 19 kilometres from North Korea's Sungjibaegam nuclear test site at a depth of 10 km, according to the US Geological Survey.

While the cause of the quake was not known, a 4.9-magnitude earthquake in a similar location was recorded before North Korea's third nuclear test in 2013 at the site.. 

North Koreans perform with scarves below the North Korean flag.
North Koreans perform with scarves below the North Korean flag. Photo: AP/File

The South Korean Meteorological agency confirmed the quake was man-made.

North Korea may be preparing to test thermonuclear weapons capabilities at its Punggye-ri nuclear test site, Yonhap News reported earlier this month.

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North Korea conducted a test-launch of a ballistic missile from a submarine last month after a similar attempt was said to have failed in November, the Free Beacon reported, citing unidentified US defence officials.

The launch was carried out December 21 near the eastern port of Sinpo, the Washington-based website said. South Korea confirmed the test but said it appeared to have failed, Yonhap News reported, citing an unidentified South Korean military official.

A successful launch would indicate that the isolated nation's underwater missile program hasn't been derailed, and an operational system could provide Pyongyang with a new option to launch an attack against enemies such as the U.S. One US official was reported by Free Beacon as saying that Kim Jong Un's government could be as little as a year away being able to fire missiles from a submarine.

The US and South Korea approved a plan to deal with North Korean missiles carrying atomic and biochemical warheads after North Korea made a threat in September to use nuclear weapons against the US. Japan is also considering deployment of the US's Thaad ballistic missile defense system to counter any potential strike from North Korea.

South Korea estimates that North Korea has 2500 tons to 5000 tons of chemical weapons. North Korea also possesses an arsenal of missiles that it says can strike the US. The country conducted its third nuclear test in 2013 and threatened last year to conduct a fourth one. US defence officials have questioned whether North Korea is capable of putting a nuclear warhead onto a missile.

The Pyongyang regime could be preparing to test thermonuclear weapon capabilities at its Punggye-ri nuclear test site, and may also be producing tritium, a radioactive isotope necessary to build more sophisticated nuclear weapons, Yonhap News reported this month.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry has called an emergency meeting following the earthquake. It said it was "highly likely" the quake was a nuclear test.

More to come

Bloomberg, Reuters