A small earthquake detected in northern North Korea was a natural event, South Korean officials said. The tremor on Saturday 23 September at at 5.29pm local time (8.29am GMT) prompted fears that the regime had conducted yet another nuclear test.
Early reports from the China Earthquake Administration (CENC) said a 3.4 magnitude quake was "caused by suspected explosion in North Hamgyong Province" and the depth of its epicentre was 0kms. It added that the quake was likely caused by an artificial explosion as it happened in the same location where Pyongyang had conducted its sixth nuclear test.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) also recorded a quake near to Sungjibaegam, North Korea. But its seismologists measured the epicentre's depth to be 5km. "This event occurred in the area of the previous North Korean nuclear tests," said the USGS. "We cannot conclusively confirm at this time the nature (natural or human-made) of the event."
Later in the day, South Korea's weather agency said it detected a magnitude 3.0 earthquake but assessed it as natural, calming fears of a seventh nuclear test at a time of heightened rhetoric between Pyongyang and Washington.
The quake was detected in an area around Kilju, in northeastern North Korea, and about 20 kilometres (12 miles) southeast of where the North conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, according to an official from Seoul's Korea Meteorological Administration, reported AP.
Previous quakes from North Korea have indicated nuclear tests by the reclusive regime. The most recent incident happened on 3 September when Pyongyang conducted its sixth nuclear test, suspected to be a hydrogen bomb.
Hamgyong Province is home to the Punggye-ri nuclear site, where the most recent satellite images from 8 September revealed new activity, days after the hydrogen bomb test, according to US thinktank, 38North.
The tremor came a week after a heated exchange of words between US President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, with both trading insults and threats.