S/Korea-An earthquake in North Korea on Sunday appeared related to a nuclear test, South Korea’s military said, reports Bloomberg.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it detected a magnitude 5.6 earthquake around 12:29 p.m. local time near the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in northeast North Korea.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he asked officials to cooperate with the U.S., South Korea, China and Russia. “If North Korea did conduct a nuclear test, it is absolutely unacceptable and we must protest it strongly,” he told reporters in Tokyo, in remarks broadcast on NHK.
A nuclear test would be a provocation that follows successive launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the U.S. It would be the sixth nuclear test by Pyongyang since 2006 and the first since the U.S. and South Korea elected new leaders.
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Tests of ICBMs in July brought Kim Jong Un’s isolated regime a step closer to achieving its aim of being able to deploy a nuclear warhead over the continental U.S. Last Tuesday, Pyongyang fired a missile over northern Japan into the Pacific Ocean.
The development comes after North Korea claimed it now had a more-developed hydrogen nuclear bomb that can be mounted on a new ICBM. The device is a multi-functional thermonuclear weapon adjustable from tens of kiloton to hundreds of kiloton and can be be detonated even at high altitudes for an electromagnetic pulse attack, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said.
The Nuclear Weapons Institute “recently succeeded in making a more developed nuke, true to the strategic intention of (its party) for bringing about a signal turn in nuclear weaponization,” KCNA said. Kim, who guided work for “nuclear weaponization” during a visit to the institute, “watched a H-bomb to be loaded into new ICBM,” it reported.
Kim was also quoted as saying that North Korea can now produce as many powerful nuclear weapons “as it wants.”
The Trump administration has delivered mixed signals of late to North Korean provocations. After the missile launch over Japan, U.S. President Donald Trump dismissed the idea of negotiating with Kim’s regime while his defense chief said the U.S. hasn’t exhausted its diplomatic options.
After suggesting that North Korea’s leader “is starting to respect us,” Trump on Wednesday returned to his tougher line. “The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!” he said in a Twitter post.
South Korea, the U.S., and Japan are pressing China to impose stronger economic measures to stop Kim’s nuclear ambitions. The United Nations Security Council has unanimously voted to tighten sanctions that targeted about a third of North Korea’s $3 billion in exports.
The UN has banned North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and imposed sanctions after past tests. Kim’s regime has said it won’t give up its nuclear weapons and missile program until the U.S. drops its “hostile” policies such as joint military drills with South Korea that ended last week.