Feb 12 2013
South Korea said it believes a nuclear test caused an earthquake in North Korea near the site of two previous atomic experiments.
Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said North Korea informed China and the United States of its plans to conduct a nuclear test. Mr Kim said an earthquake was detected in North Korea shortly before noon local time.
North Korea has yet to confirm whether the tremor resulted from the widely-anticipated test, though an analyst in Seoul said a nuclear detonation was a "high possibility". Nuclear blasts can create tremors but they are distinct from those caused by natural earthquakes.
A United Nations nuclear test monitoring organisation detected what it called an "unusual seismic event" in North Korea. The US Geological Survey as well as earthquake monitoring stations in South Korea detected an earthquake just north of a site where North Korea conducted its second nuclear test in 2009, according to the government-funded Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources.
"There is a high possibility that North Korea has conducted a nuclear test," said Chi Heoncheol, an earthquake specialist at the institute. Mr Chi said a magnitude 3.9 magnitude earthquake and a magnitude 4.5 earthquake were detected in the North's 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.
The United States and its allies have been on edge since North Korea said last month it would conduct its third nuclear test to protest at toughened sanctions over a December rocket launch that the UN called a cover for a banned missile test. North Korea's powerful politburo vowed to continue firing "powerful long-range rockets", but a statement by state media on Tuesday made no mention of a nuclear test.
North Korea's powerful National Defence Commission said on January 23 that the United States was its prime target for a nuclear test and long-range rocket launches. North Korea accuses Washington of leading the push to punish Pyongyang for its December rocket launch.
Last October, a spokesman from the commission told state media that the country had built a missile capable of striking the United States, but did not provide further details. A missile featured in an April 2012 military parade appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile, but its authenticity has not been verified by foreign experts.
A world nuclear test monitoring organisation detected what it called an "unusual seismic event" in North Korea. "The event shows clear explosion-like characteristics and its location is roughly congruent with the 2006 and 2009 DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) nuclear tests," said Tibor Toth, executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation.
"If confirmed as a nuclear test, this act would constitute a clear threat to international peace and security, and challenges efforts made to strengthen global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, in particular by ending nuclear testing," Mr Toth said.