Earthquake Off Coast Of North Korea: Did Kim Jong-Un Carry Out A Nuclear Test?

An earthquake off the coast of North Korea today sparked fears Kim Jong-Un may have carried out his threat to conduct more nuclear tests.

The magnitude-five tremor was detected 80 miles from the Korean Peninsula at around 3.48am local time (7.48pm yesterday GMT), according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

It comes just two days after the sabre-rattling state threatened to launch a ‘new form’ of nuclear power tests – and hours after the North and South exchanged artillery fire near a disputed sea boundary in a heightening of tensions on the peninsula.

The force of today’s earthquake was similar to the 5.1-magnitude tremor registered in a North Korean mountain range from a previous nuclear test in December 2012.

But its location at a depth of nearly 10 miles in the sea did not immediately suggest nucelar testing was the cause this time, it was reported by the Daily Telegraph.

Yesterday, South Korea fired shells into North Korean waters after their rivals sent more than 100 rounds below the disputed sea boundary during a live-fire drill.

The heated artillery exchange was prompted by an unusual warning fax sent from the North to the South, informing them of their live-fire drill.

Though it is not unusual for the reclusive nation to practice at sea, South Korean officials were alarmed by the alert, which they claim ‘indicates their hostile intention’.

South Korea was also investigating an unmanned drone which crashed on one of its islands, a South Korean defence ministry official said on Tuesday, triggering an investigation into whether the aircraft was from the North.

The drone fell on Baengnyeong island at about 4pm (0700 GMT) on Monday during the artillery exchanges.

The South Korean military was trying to verify where the drone had come from and what its purpose might have been, and was also looking into any possible link to North Korea’s espionage operations, the military official told Reuters.

On Saturday, North Korea also accused the South of ‘gangster-like’ behaviour by ‘abducting’ one of its fishing boats and threatened to retaliate.

The South said it had sent the boat back after it drifted into its waters.

Hours later, Pyongyang threatened to conduct a fourth nuclear test at some point.

Last spring, tension spiked after a near-daily barrage of North Korean threats, including warnings of nuclear strikes against Seoul and Washington, following international criticism of Pyongyang’s third nuclear test in February of that year.

But the North has gradually dialed down its threats and sought to improve ties with South Korea in what foreign analysts say is an attempt to lure international investment and aid.

The North Korean live-fire drills and the country’s hints at a nuclear test are meant to express anger and frustration over what the North sees as little improvement in progress in its ties with South Korea and the US, said Lim Eul Chul, a North Korea expert at South Korea’s Kyungnam University.

Lim said the North might conduct a fourth nuclear test and launch other provocations to try to wrest the outside concessions it wants.

The Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.


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