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North Korea nuclear test suspected after 'artificial' quake

BBC News logo BBC News 9/09/2016

North Korea is suspected of carrying out its fifth test of a nuclear bomb, after a magnitude 5.3 earthquake was detected close to its test site.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency said it had been an "artificial quake".

An unnamed South Korean government source said it was highly likely to have been a nuclear test.

There has been no confirmation from the North, but previous artificial earthquakes in that area and of that magnitude have all been nuclear tests.

Recent satellite imagery and intelligence has indicated increased activity at the Punggye-ri site, where North Korea carried out its previous tests, indicating a fifth was imminent.

The US Geological Survey, which monitors global seismic activity, said Friday morning's tremor had been detected in that area and was caused by "an explosion".

It said it could "cannot determine what type of explosion it may be, whether nuclear or any other possible type".

Friday is North Korea's National Day, which celebrates the start of the country's leadership regime.

North Korea often uses such events as an opportunity for a show of military strength.

North Korea analyst Jeffrey Lewis, at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in the US, told Reuters the size of Friday's tremor indicated a device with a 20 to 30 kilotonne yield.

If confirmed, that would be the North's largest device to date.

North Korea is banned by UN sanctions from any tests of nuclear or missile technology.

But in recent months it has conducted a series of ballistic missile launches and has threatened to carry out nuclear attacks on its enemies.

Its last nuclear test, in January, was purported to be of a hydrogen bomb, but that claim has not been confirmed.

North Korea and nuclear weapons

October 2002: North Korea first acknowledges it has a secret nuclear weapons programme

October 2006: The first of three underground nuclear explosions is announced, at a test site called Punggye-ri

May 2009: A month after walking out of international talks on its nuclear programme, North Korea carries out its second underground nuclear test

February 2013: A third nuclear test takes place using what state media calls a "miniaturised and lighter nuclear device"

May 2015: Pyongyang claims to have tested a submarine-launched missile, which are more difficult to detect than conventional devices

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