Artificial quake in North raises fear of another nuke test

Korea’s official news agency. AFP  KCNA via KNS

Korea’s official news agency. AFP KCNA via KNS

The United Nations Security Council unanimously condemned North Korea's firing of a ballistic missile over Japan on Tuesday as an "outrageous" threat and demanded that Pyongyang not launch any more missiles and abandons all nuclear weapons and programmes.

Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency said it was a Hwasong-12 intermediate range missile that the North first successfully tested in May and threatened to fire into waters near Guam earlier this month.

South Korea's military said it has strengthened its monitoring and readiness while mulling a variety of possible responses that could be executed in collaboration with the U.S.

Speaking at the UN Conference on Disarmament, North Korea's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Han Tae-song, slammed the United States for pushing the Korean peninsula towards "an extreme level of explosion", without making any direct reference to Pyongyang's latest launch.

However, the US-drafted statement, which was agreed by consensus, does not threaten new sanctions on North Korea.

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On Friday, scheduled emergency evacuation drills took place in multiple Japanese cities, practicing for a "missile launch from Country X".

South Korea's military says North Korea is believed to have conducted its sixth nuclear test.

South Korea's weather agency estimated the nuclear blast yield of the presumed test was between 50 and 60 kilotons, or five to six times stronger than North Korea's fifth test in September 2016.

China, though, needs to do something about North Korea's threats, as "no country can put up with a missile directed right at its face", Hill said.

The United States' newest and most advanced fighter, the Marine Corps' F-35B Lightning II, joined U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers for the first time in a sequenced bilateral mission with Japan and South Korean air forces in Northeast Asia yesterday, according to a Pacific Air Forces news release.

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President Donald Trump's administration announced in July that it was barring American citizens from traveling to North Korea starting today over concerns about detentions of Americans who travel there.

The U.S. -Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS), hammered out by Trump's Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, has been a frequent target for Trump, who in earlier interviews with Reuters threatened to withdraw from what he called an unequal deal in which Washington runs a goods trade deficit of nearly $28 billion with Seoul. South Koreans Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo-suk told lawmakers on Thursday that North Korea might have fired the missile at about half its maximum range.

Signed with the USA in 2001 - the year South Korea joined the Missile Technology Control Regime - the agreement initially limited Seoul to rockets with a range of just 300km due to United States concerns about triggering a regional arms race in North-east Asia.

The United States and South Korea are technically still at war with North Korea because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

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