South Korea says natural North Korea earthquake detected

A man watches a television news screen showing a map of the epicenter of an earthquake in North Korea, at a railway station in Seoul on September 23, 2017. China's seismic service CENC on September 23 detected a zero-depth, 3.4-magnitude earthquake in North Korea, calling it a 'suspected explosion'. There seemed to be some initial difference of opinion, however, with Seoul's Korea Meteorological Agency (KMA) saying that it had registered a tremor of a similar size, but judged it a 'natural quake'. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s weather agency said a magnitude 3.0 earthquake was detected in North Korea on Saturday around where the country recently conducted a nuclear test, but it assessed the quake as natural.

The quake was detected in an area around Kilju, in northeastern North Korea, and about 20 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of where the North conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, according to an official from Seoul’s Korea Meteorological Administration.

China’s official Xinhua News Agency said earlier that the country’s seismic service detected a magnitude 3.4 quake in North Korea and saw the likely cause as an explosion. But the official from the South Korean agency said the analysis of seismic waves and the lack of sound waves clearly showed that the quake wasn’t caused by an artificial explosion. She spoke on condition of anonymity, citing office rules.

The U.S. Geological Survey said that it detected a magnitude 3.5 quake in the area of previous North Korean nuclear tests, but that it was unable to confirm whether the event was natural.

North Korea’s weakest nuclear test, its first one, conducted in 2006, generated a magnitude 4.3 quake. The USGS measured this month’s nuclear test at magnitude 6.3.

North Korea has been maintaining a torrid pace in nuclear and weapons tests as it accelerates its pursuit of nuclear weapons that could viably target the United States and its allies in Asia.

North Korea said its recent nuclear test was a detonation of a thermonuclear weapon built for its developmental intercontinental ballistic missiles. In two July flight tests, those missiles showed potential capability to reach deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.