Suspicions are high that North Korea may have carried out another weapons test today after a magnitude-2.9 natural disaster was detected very close to one of their test sites.
The quake took place at 16.41 (UTC) at an estimated depth of 5km, and while the USGS said the quake appeared natural, it did not rule out the possibility of a nuclear test.
The agency says Friday's magnitude 2.7 quake was 54 kilometers (0.62 miles) northwest of the town of Kilju in northeastern North Korea.
The North's latest nuclear experiment, which it claimed involved the test of a hydrogen bomb, generated seismic waves of 5.7 magnitude, according to the Korean authorities, or 6.3 magnitude based on the US' analysis. "If it goes ahead with another test in this area, it could risk radioactive pollution".
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September's nuclear test was so strong that it shook buildings in Russian Federation and China and was described as a "perfect success" by North Korea's state-run media.
These disturbances are more numerous and widespread than seen after any of the North's previous tests, 38 North has said.
All of North Korea's nuclear explosions since 2006 caused earthquakes with a magnitude of 4.3 or above.
The area is considered stable and quakes do not normally occur there.
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The China Earthquake Networks Center (CENC) said the event may have been caused by an artificial explosion, but the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Lassina Zerbo said the quake was unlikely to be manmade.
North Korea has hinted its next test could be above the ground. On September 3, Pyongyang announced a successful test of a hydrogen bomb.
And they warned the Punggye-ri nuclear site may not be used for much longer to test nuclear weapons.
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