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Tremors in North Korea raise fears of nuclear test

شعار Al Jazeera Al Jazeera 03/09/2017
The website of the US Geological Survey said the tremor of 6.3 magnitude had a depth of 23 kilometres [USGS/Al Jazeera] © Provided by Al Jazeera The website of the US Geological Survey said the tremor of 6.3 magnitude had a depth of 23 kilometres [USGS/Al Jazeera]

Two tremors struck North Korea on Sunday, prompting fears that Pyongyang may have conducted its sixth nuclear test.

The website of the US Geological Survey said a first tremor of 6.3 magnitude had a depth of 23 kilometres, an alert that came after claims by Pyongyang that the North has developed a more advanced nuclear weapon that has "great destructive power".

"Possible explosion, located near the site where North Korea has detonated nuclear explosions in the past," said the USGS. "If this event was an explosion, the USGS National Earthquake Information Center cannot determine its type, whether nuclear or any other possible type."

The USGS had earlier reported a 5.2 magnitude and depth of zero kilometres.

China said it also detected a second quake in North Korea of magnitude 4.6, which it termed as a "collapse".

A statement on the China's Earthquake Administration said the second tremor came eight minutes after the first quake.

The coordinates of the two quakes were almost identical, according to figures provided by the administration.

Previous recent tremors in North Korea have been caused by nuclear tests.

Of the first tremor, the South Korean military confirmed that an artificial quake took place near North Korea's nuclear test site and said it has put its nuclear crisis response team into operation, according to the Yonhap news agency.

Japan's Abe decries possible test

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was quick to respond, saying a nuclear test by North Korea would be "absolutely unnacceptable."

Al Jazeera's Scott Heidler, reporting from Tokyo, said Japanese officials were likely to be especially nervous.

"This comes just days after a ballistic missile flew over Japanese territory," he said.

"In the days following that missile test, there were several phone calls between Prime Minister Abe and US President Donald Trump, the last one which was just earlier Sunday morning.

"Japanese media are reporting that in that phone call, both leaders agreed that more pressure needs to be put on North Korea - and that was before the news of this potential nuclear test."

Japan's ministry of defence recently requested "its biggest budget in history," said Heidler.

"The ministry say part of that budget will be spent to get a more sophisticated land based altitude missile system, so they're focused on a bigger and more important defense in the face of North Korea, and this latest incident will only make to want to them pursue that further."

There were slight variations of the first earthquake's measures.

Like the USGS, China's Earthquake Administration said it detected a 6.3 magnitude earthquake but reported a depth of zero kilometres. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, meanwhile, reported a magnitude 5.6 quake. 

The Chinese administration said in a statement on its website that the first quake was recorded around 11:30am (03:30 GMT).

Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay, reporting from Seoul, said: "The size of this [first] earthquake does vary upon which organisation is reporting it.

"The location of the earthquake was in the northeast of the country and there had been reports in the past few weeks, citing South Korean intelligence, there was movement at that site. So they were suspecting that maybe [North Korea was] preparing for another nuclear test.

"There was a lot of expectation they would conduct their nuclear test on September 9, the date they did it last year, to mark Foundation Day, the founding day of [North Korea]."

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