A powerful explosion measured 5.3 in magnitude has been reported at the site of North Korea’s bomb tests by the US Geological Survey (USGS), triggering reports of an apparent nuclear test.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it could confirm that the quake was a nuclear event upon initial examination.

“Upon conducting an analysis, we came to the conclusion, that the North has carried out a nuclear test,” the ministry’s representative told Yonhap.

Based on the South Korean military’s estimates, the impact of the blast is about 10 kilotons, he added.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye accused North Korean leader Kim Jong-un of “maniacal recklessness” for pursuing nuclear weapons program despite severe sanctions, imposed on the North by the UN for repeated violations of Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), as cited by Reuters.

[UPDATE] M5.3 Magnitude Explosion Seismic Event Near North Korea Nuclear Site

No excess radiation has yet been detected by radiation monitoring posts in Russia’s Far East. The region borders the Korean Peninsula’s northeastern shore.

“The radiation control systems did not record any excess background radiation,” a spokesman for the Russian Emergencies Ministry for the Far East told RIA Novosti.

Japan has determined that North Korea conducted a nuclear test earlier Friday, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told journalists. A meeting of senior Japanese officials, including the country’s PM, Shinzo Abe, has been scheduled, The Japan Times reports.

The Japanese government lodged an official protest against North Korea’s actions. The note was sent to Pyongyang via Chinese diplomatic channels, Kyodo News Agency reports.

The USGS commented on the event, calling it a “possible explosion, located near the location where North Korea has detonated nuclear explosions in the past.” It added that if this indeed was an explosion, “the USGS National Earthquake Information Center cannot determine what type of explosion it may be, whether nuclear or any other possible type.”

Washington announced it has been in close contact with its regional allies overseeing the situation after the alleged explosion.

“We are aware of seismic activity on the Korean Peninsula in the vicinity of a known North Korean nuclear test site. We are monitoring and continuing to assess the situation in close coordination with our regional partners,” Ned Price, National Security Council (NSC) spokesman, told RIA Novosti.

The epicenter of the explosion lies close to the town of Sungjibaegam, where the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site is located. On February 12, 2013, a similar “quake” of 5.1 magnitude was reported by the USGS just 24 kilometers (15 miles) east of the town. The event was later confirmed by North Korean officials as an underground nuclear weapons test.

A conflicting set of data from the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk seismic station, also in Russia’s Far East, listed the tremor as a 4.8-magnitude quake at a depth of 12 kilometers, RIA Novosti reports.

South Korea will promptly hold consultations with US and Japan regarding North Korea’s newest nuclear activity.

“Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, now traveling in Laos with President Park Geun-hye, is seeking to have consultations with close allies,” a senior South Korean official told Yonhap, adding that Byung-se is going to speak with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumoi Kishida via a phone call.

South Korea’s prime minister, Hwang Kyo-ahn, is set to hold an emergency meeting of the country’s National Security Council (NSC), the PM’s office told Yonhap in a statement.

In January this year, North Korea carried out its fourth nuclear test at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, which was registered as a 5.1-magnitude tremor by seismological organizations.

The latest test appears to be the most powerful one in the history of North Korea’s nuclear program, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said, adding that the yield of the previous January test was about 6 kilotons. Earlier tests were conducted in 2013 (6-9 kilotons), 2009 (2-4 kilotons) and 2006 (1 kiloton).


E. Goldstein

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