A North Korean nuclear site in the country’s north has collapsed, threatening an “unprecedented risk” of radioactive fallout including in neighbouring China, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) newspaper reported.
The Hong Kong-based publication said on Wednesday that the collapse at Punggye-ri near the border with China “may” be the reason why North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared an immediate halt of its nuclear and missile tests, according to one researcher,
The newspaper report said the test site was “wrecked” beyond repair.
The suspension of the tests on Friday came as North Korea prepared for a landmark summit with South Korea, as well as a breakthrough meeting between Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump.
Kim is to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a border village on April 27, and Trump in the coming months for separate summit talks.
This week’s inter-Korean summit will be the first such meeting since 2007, and only the third since the 1950-1953 Korean War.
Earlier, it was also revealed that Kim held secret talks with Trump’s incoming secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who had also served as his CIA director.
Last year, after conducting its most powerful nuclear test ever and saying it had successfully tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile, North Korea announced that its nuclear programme was complete.
Pyongyang started nuclear blast experiments in 2006.
The last five of six nuclear tests by Pyongyang were conducted in Mount Mantap, including the test on September 3, 2017, which caused the collapse of the mountain.
The report quoted geological experts in China as saying that the mountain collapsed after the detonation of a warhead weighing 100-kilotonnes about 700 metres below the mountain’s peak.
Mount Mantap is about 75km to the nearest Chinese city of Baishan in Jilin province, which has a population of 1.2 million people.
According to the newspaper, there had been growing fears in China that the test in September had caused a “fallout leak” coming from cracks in the damaged mountain.
SCMP also reported that following the blast, North Korea’s top geologist, Lee Doh-sik visited Beijing’s Institute of Science at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and met with senior geology experts there.
Satellite images published by the SCMP on Wednesday showed a mountain with thick green vegetation that turned reddish brown after the test and mountain collapse.
At the time of the test, the US Geological Survey reported a magnitude 6.3 earthquake with a depth of 23km. China later said it had also detected a second quake in North Korea of magnitude 4.6, eight minutes after the initial tremor.
The quake was felt as far away as the Chinese city of Changchun around 400km northwest of North Korea’s test site at Punggye-ri, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
Tremors were also reportedly felt in Russia’s eastern region.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera News
North Korea test site could be unusable after collapse – Chinese scientists
The test site at Punggye-ri has been used for six nuclear tests since 2006.
After the last, in September, a series of aftershocks hit the site, which seismologists believe collapsed part of the mountain’s interior.
On Saturday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un announced he was suspending his country’s nuclear and missile tests.
The surprise declaration came ahead of historic talks with South Korea and the US.
The latest research from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) is due to be published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, in the coming days.
It concluded that eight and a half minutes after September’s test, there was “a near-vertical on-site collapse towards the nuclear test centre”.
The Punggye-ri test site, before (left) and after the September 3, 2017, test. The image on the right shows landslides from the blast AFP/HO
Pics of the site at link above.
“Some experts also said Mantap was suffering from “tired mountain syndrome” due to the stress on the ground, the Washington Post reported. Chinese scientists have also warned the mountain could collapse and release radiation. Radioactive xenon-133 was detected in South Korea after the test”.
200 feared dead after tunnel collapses at North Korean nuclear test site, Japanese TV claims
About 200 people are feared dead in North Korea after underground tunnels at a nuclear test site that was feared to be unstable reportedly collapsed, crushing 100 people in the initial cave-in and 100 others when the tunnels again gave way on top of rescuers.
The collapse at the Punggye-ri test site on Oct. 10 occurred while people were doing construction on the underground tunnel, Japan’s Asahi TV reported, citing a source in North Korea. The television station also said North Korea’s sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3 most likely caused the tunnel to crumble and created serious damage in the region.
No officials have confirmed the Japanese TV station’s claims, but experts have feared for more than a month that the test site was on the verge of crumbling since the nuclear blast. North Korea said it detonated a hydrogen bomb, calling it a “perfect success.” It was the country’s most powerful bomb tested to date and the blast was reportedly 10 times more powerful than the nuclear bomb that was dropped over Hiroshima at the end of World War II.