A small, 2.9-magnitude earthquake struck the area near North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site, prompting concerns the Hermit Kingdom had conducted another nuclear test.
The temblor struck at 12:41 p.m. EDT Thursday roughly 14 miles NE of Sungjibaegam at a depth of 3.1 miles. The same area experienced a 3.5-magnitude quake on Sept. 23, which came three weeks after the 6.3-magnitude tremor caused by North Korea’s hydrogen bomb test.
The U.S. Geological Survey initially stated:
This event occurred in the area of the previous North Korean Nuclear tests. The event has earthquake-like characteristics, however, we cannot conclusively confirm at this time the nature (natural or human-made) of the event. The depth is poorly constrained and has been held to 5 km by the seismologist. The Air Force Technical Applications Center is the sole organization in the U.S. federal government whose mission is to detect and report technical data from foreign nuclear explosions.
The watchdog group 38 North reported the earthquake was likely due to a major landslide caused by the Sept. 3 nuclear test. The Sept. 23 temblor was also attributed to landslides.
There remains seismic concerns in the area, which is close to the Mt. Paektu supervolcano located on the border with China. The Sept. 3 test was strong enough to have triggered an eruption, and these aftershocks could be a sign of magma displacement in the supervolcano’s caldera.
China has already closed a national park on its side of the border at Mt. Paektu.