NKorea nu­clear test site tremors sig­nal dam­age

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - WORLD -

SEOUL: A se­ries of tremors and land­slides near North Korea’s nu­clear test base likely mean the coun­try’s sixth and largest blast has desta­bi­lized the re­gion, and the Pung­gye-ri nu­clear site may not be used for much longer to test nu­clear weapons, ex­perts say.

A small quake was de­tected early Fri­day near the North’s nu­clear test site, South Korea’s weather agency said, but un­like quakes as­so­ci­ated with nu­clear tests, it did not ap­pear to be man­made. The tremor was the lat­est in a string of at least three shocks ob­served since Py­ongyang’s Sept. 3 nu­clear test, which caused a 6.3 mag­ni­tude quake.

Fri­day’s quake was a mag­ni­tude 2.7 with a depth of 3 kilo­me­ters in North Ham­gy­ong Prov­ince in North Korea, the Korea Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Ad­min­is­tra­tion said. The United States Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey mea­sured the quake at 2.9 mag­ni­tude at a depth of five kilo­me­ters.

The se­ries of quakes has prompted ex­perts and ob­servers to sus­pect the last test, which the North claimed to be of a hy­dro­gen bomb, may have dam­aged the moun­tain­ous lo­ca­tion in the north­west tip of the coun­try, where all of North Korea’s six nu­clear tests were con­ducted.

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

“I think the Pung­gye-ri re­gion is now pretty sat­u­rated. If it goes ahead with another test in this area, it could risk ra­dioac­tive pol­lu­tion.”

Ac­cord­ing to 38 North, a Wash­ing­ton-based project mon­i­tor­ing North Korea, nu­mer­ous land­slides through­out the nu­clear test site have been de­tected via satel­lite im­ages af­ter the sixth test. The dis­tur­bances are more nu­mer­ous and wide­spread than seen af­ter any of the North’s pre­vi­ous tests, 38 North said.

The ex­plo­sion from the sixth test was large enough for res­i­dents of the Chi­nese bor­der city of Yanji, 200 km north of North Korea’s nu­clear test site, to feel the ground shake. “The rea­son why Pung­gye-ri has be­come North Korea’s nu­clear test­ing field is be­cause this area was con­sid­ered sta­ble and rarely saw tremors in the past,” said Hong Tae-kyung, a pro­fes­sor of earth sys­tem science at Yon­sei Uni­ver­sity in Seoul. –

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