Quake rocks North Korea but experts say ‘not caused by nuclear test’

North Korea needs to conduct another atomic test explosion to perfect a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the continental US. South Korea said there was no indication that North Korea had carried out a nuclear test.

This July 4, 2017 photo, distributed by North Korea, shows the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile. A quake rocked North Korea on Thursday but experts said it was not caused by a nuclear test.
This July 4, 2017 photo, distributed by North Korea, shows the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile. A quake rocked North Korea on Thursday but experts said it was not caused by a nuclear test.(AP File Photo)

A magnitude 5.9 earthquake off North Korea jolted watchers of the country’s weapons development on Thursday but experts say it was not caused by a nuclear test.

Analysts say North Korea needs to conduct another atomic test explosion to perfect a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the continental US. On July 4, Pyongyang test-launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile. 4. North Korea’s five previous nuclear tests caused signs of artificial quakes.

Here’s what experts say about the quake:

Natural event

First off, the quake was centred far offshore and very deep while North Korea’s past nuclear tests were conducted on land.

According to the US Geological Survey, the quake struck 187 km southeast of the northern port city of Chongjin. The epicentre was 559 km below the seabed.


Cho Ik-hyun at South Korea’s state weather agency said the depth shows it was a natural event, too deep for a possible nuclear blast.

Natural earthquakes create different seismic patterns from ones caused by humans. South Korea’s defence ministry said there was no indication that North Korea had carried out a nuclear test.

No damage

Cho said any earthquake deeper than 70 km normally causes little damage on the surface. Even if a ship was sailing over the epicentre at the time of the quake, it wouldn’t have noticed anything, Cho said.

Earthquakes are rare on the Korean Peninsula, unlike in neighbouring Japan. Two quakes measuring 5.1 and 5.8 jolted southeastern South Korea on September 12, causing no casualties.
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