North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japan on September 15, which seems to have fallen on the Pacific Ocean, the Japanese government said in its official alert system. But South Korea says that it could be a natural quake not caused by a nuclear test.
The natural disaster comes after days of increasingly bellicose rhetoric between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un's regime, which has raised worldwide alarm.
Would exploding a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific, as North Korea has threatened, push the current war of words between the USA and North Korea closer to actual war?
"A sound wave, which is usually generated in the event of an artificial quake, was not detected".
"If it doesn't go exactly as planned and the detonation occurs at a lower altitude we could see some EMP-like effects for anything in the area".
Reversing its initial assessment of a "suspected explosion", China Earthquake Networks Center concluded that Saturday's earthquake was "not a nuclear test", adding that the incident had the characteristics of a natural earthquake.
It does, however, raise many questions, including: How would the North undertake such a nuclear test, what risks might it pose to Japan and how would the US respond?
Nuclear-armed missiles have only been tested a handful of times, said Vipin Narang, a professor of political science at MIT and expert on deterrence and nuclear policy.
The United States Geological Survey was neutral in its assessment of the cause of the tremor, saying in a statement that it could not "conclusively confirm at this time" whether the quake was a natural or human-made event.
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The United States believes that North Korea will be able to launch a reliable nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile by early 2018, a USA official familiar with the latest intelligence assessment confirmed to CNN in July. The latest test was followed by a second magnitude 4.1 quake that experts said could have been caused by landslides or a tunnel collapsing after the explosion.
But he also said the prospect of war was low given that North Korea already had nuclear weapons and there had never been a direct conflict between nuclear-armed nations.
Also Thursday, Trump issued an executive order expanding the Treasury Department's ability to target anyone conducting significant trade in goods, services or technology with North Korea and to ban them from the US financial system.
SIPRI listed North Korea as not having any deployed warheads but with 10 to 20 "other warheads" which include "operational warheads held in storage and retired warheads awaiting dismantlement".
"If a nuclear bomb falls on Seoul, where do you cook pork belly?"
North Korea carried out a massive nuclear test on 3 September which has been widely condemned at the UN.
Saturday's activity comes at a time of heightened tensions and name-calling between Washington and Pyongyang over North Korea's nuclear program.