The test came as North Korea celebrates the “day of the foundation of the republic,” the 68th anniversary of the formation of the communist regime by Kim Il Sung, the current leader’s grandfather.
The United States Geological Survey reported a 5.3 magnitude earthquake near Punggye-ri, the site of North Korea’s previous nuclear tests, at exactly 9 a.m. local time.
“Possible explosion, located near the location where North Korea has detonated nuclear explosions in the past,” the USGS said on its website. “If this is indeed an explosion, the USGS National Earthquake Information Center cannot determine what type of explosion it may be, whether nuclear or any other possible type.”
South Korea’s national security council convened an emergency meeting, and Japan said it was highly likely that the explosion was a nuclear test. A U.S. defense official said the seismic activity appeared to be consistent with a nuclear test but that American officials were now working to confirm whether it was one or not.
Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia nonproliferation program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, Calif., said it appeared to be the biggest of North Korea’s five tests.
“This is clearly a nuclear test,” Lewis said. “USGS is calling it an explosion because it has all the hallmarks: the waveform is sudden unlike an earthquake, the depth is shallow, the location is the North Korean test site and it happened on the half hour.”
Read more at the Washington Post.