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Seismic activity detected near North Korean nuclear test site - USGS

Seismic activity detected near North Korean nuclear test site - USGS

China accounts for roughly 85 per cent of North Korea's external trade and is seen by many as the key to forcing Pyongyang to at least freeze its nuclear and missile programmes.

The tremor hit at 01:41 am (1641 GMT Thursday) with a depth of around five kilometres (three miles), the US Geological Survey said, with the epicentre located north of the Punggye-Ri testing site. According to the US Geological Survey, there isn't enough information to conclude the nature of the quake yet.

The series of quakes have prompted experts and observers to suspect the latest tests, which North Korea claimed to be a hydrogen bomb, allowing destruction at the mountainous site at the northwestern tip of the country, where all six North Korean nuclear tests were conducted.

A shallow 2.9-magnitude natural disaster struck near North Korea's nuclear test site on Friday before dawn just weeks after Pyongyang's biggest detonation.

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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South Korea's weather agency says the four quakes likely occurred because the underground nuclear explosion September 3 weakened or affected the tectonic plate structures in the area. "If it goes ahead with another test in this area, it could risk radioactive pollution".

The last time a weapon was detonated at the site, a magnitude-6.3 natural disaster was detected.

The sanctions, which could cut off one-third of North Korea's total annual exports of US$3 billion, took effect in September, but China enforced the new measures from Aug 15.

The area is considered stable and quakes do not normally occur there.

"The recent small quakes suggest that the test might have triggered crust deformation".