North Korean quake detected near nuclear test site

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A shallow 2.9-magnitude quake struck near North Korea's nuclear test site before dawn today, weeks after Pyongyang's biggest detonation, but South Korean experts said the tremor did not appear to be man-made.

The quake took place at 16.41 UTC (5.41am NZT) at a depth of 5km, the US Geological Survey reported.

Suspicions are high that North Korea may have carried out another weapons test today after a magnitude-2.9 quake was detected very close to one of their test sites. "The event has earthquake-like characteristics, however, we can not conclusively confirm at this time the nature (natural or human-made) of the event", the U.S. agency said.

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And the region has since been hit by a series of landslide and tremors in the wake of the incident.

Seismic activity does not always indicate a nuclear test.

Kim So-gu, head researcher at the Korea Seismological Institute, said: "The explosion from the September 3 test had such power that the existing tunnels within the underground testing site might have caved in".

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"I think the Punggye-ri region is now pretty saturated".

Another issue that could keep North Korea from using Punggye-ri for nuclear tests the nearby active volcano of Mt. Paektu, Yonsei University's Hong said. The tremor was the latest in a string of at least three shocks to be observed since Pyongyang's September 3 nuclear test, which caused a 6.3 magnitude natural disaster.

This latest tremor came three weeks after a 3.5-magnitude quake struck near the same area. However, the South Korean experts have said that the tremor did not appear to be man-made.

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The test on September 3 triggered a much stronger 6.3- magnitude quake that was felt across the border in China and sparked global condemnation, leading the United Nations Security Council to unanimously adopt tough new sanctions against Pyongyang. In 2006, North Korea's first detonation triggered a 4.1-magnitude quake.

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