3.5-magnitude quake rattles North Korea near nuclear test site

A shallow 3 . 5 - magnitude earthquake hit North Korea near the country ’s nuclear test site Saturday , US seismologists said, in what China ’s seismic service said was a “ suspected explosion ”, but Seoul deemed a “ natural earthquake ”.
The earthquake came after days of increasingly bellicose rhetoric between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong- Un ’s regime over Pyongyang ’ s nuclear ambitions raised international alarm .
The United States Geological Survey (USGS ) said the quake struck around 20 kilometres (12 miles) away from the North ’ s nuclear test site, where earlier this month it detonated its sixth and largest device , which it claimed to be a hydrogen bomb capable of being launched onto a missile .
“ This event occurred in the area of the previous North Korean Nuclear tests . We cannot conclusively confirm at this time the nature (natural or human -made ) of the event . The depth is poorly constrained and has been held to 5 km by the seismologist , ” USGS said in a statement .
Regional experts differed on their analysis of the tremor , with China ’ s China Earthquake Network Centre (CENC) service calling it a “ suspected explosion ”, while Seoul’ s Korea Meteorological Agency ( KMA ) judged it a “natural quake”.
“ There is no possibility that this could be an artificial quake, ” Yonhap news agency quoted a KMA official as saying .
The North ’ s last test , on September 3 , was the country ’ s most powerful detonation , triggering a much stronger 6 . 3 - magnitude quake that was felt across the border in China .
A second tremor soon after that test was possibly caused by a “ cave - in ” , CENC said at the time .
The move prompted global condemnation, leading the UN Security Council to unanimously adopt new sanctions that include restrictions on oil shipments .
– War of words –
This week marked a new level of acrimony in a blistering war of words between Kim and Trump , with the US leader using his maiden speech at the United Nations to warn that Washington would “ totally destroy ” the North if the US or its allies were threatened .
The North , which says it needs nuclear weapons to protect itself against the threat of invasion by a hostile US , responded on Friday with a rare personal rebuke from Kim, who called Trump “mentally deranged ” and a “ dotard ” and threatened the “ highest level of hard - line countermeasure in history ”.
Washington announced tougher restrictions Friday aimed at curbing North Korea ’ s nuclear and ballistic missile programme , building on tough new United Nations sanctions aimed at choking Pyongyang of cash.
Russia and China have both appealed for an end to the escalating rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang .
But on the fringes of the UN meeting this week, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong - ho upped the tensions further , telling reporters Pyongyang might now consider detonating a hydrogen bomb outside its territory .
Monitoring groups estimate that the nuclear test conducted in North Korea earlier this month had a yield of 250 kilotons , which is 16 times the size of the US bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945 .
Hydrogen bombs , or H - bombs , are thermonuclear weapons far more powerful than ordinary fission-based atomic bombs , and use a nuclear blast to generate the intense temperatures required for fusion to take place.
AFP