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Before and after images of North Korea’s nuclear test show change in height of mountain

world Updated: Sep 14, 2017 16:35 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
North Korea nuclear test,North Korea,Kim Jong Un

People watch a TV news reporting about a possible nuclear test conducted by North Korea ,at the Seoul Railway station in Seoul, South Korea.(AP File Photo)

Images showed that the nuclear test conducted by North Korea, which it claims was an Hydrogen Bomb, was powerful enough to sink an 85-acre area on the mountain under which it was likely detonated earlier in September, a Washington Post report said.

Airbus’ Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite took pictures of the Mount Mantap before and after the nuclear test. They showed “significant changes at Mount Mantap’s peak elevation. Prior to the test, Mount Mantap was 2,205 meters high; the mountain has since diminished in height,” wrote Jeffrey Lewis, head of the East Asia programme at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

“You can see that the explosion visibly displaces the mountain, which demonstrates both how large the explosion was but also that it occurred in the same tunnel complex as the preceding four nuclear tests,” said Lewis on the Arms Control Wonk website.

The SAR satellites can observe environmental changes due to explosions and locate where the explosion might have occurred, said Lewis.

US monitors measured a powerful 6.3-magnitude earthquake near the North’s main testing site on September 3, felt in parts of China and Russia, with an aftershock possibly caused by a rock cave-in. It was the sixth and most powerful test North Korea has conducted since its first in 2006, demonstrating a stunning advance in the country’s ability to build high-yield nuclear weapons.

According to the South’s Yonhap news agency, Seoul’s National Intelligence Service said the test was the fifth the North had conducted in the same No. 2 tunnel at the Punggye-ri test site, and it was “likely to have collapsed”.

North Korea is the only country in the world that still carries out underground nuclear tests.

The North has four tunnel openings into four mountains at their Punggye-ri test site in its mountainous northeast. The first tunnel was abandoned after just one use, probably because gases leaked and authorities realised the geology there was unfavourable. They conducted their next five tests, including the September 3 test, at the second mountain: Mount Mantap. The others remain unused.

The satellite images are “additional proof that the September 2017 explosion was much larger than ever before at this site,” Melissa Hanham, a researcher at the ­Center for Nonproliferation, was quoted as saying by the Post. Hanham added that the images from the North’s nuclear test last year did not show substantial change on the mountain’s surface.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrives for the official opening of the Ryomyong residential area, in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP File Photo)

A US-based website that is linked to John Hopkins University, 38 North, raised its estimate for the yield of the blast to ‘rought 250 kilotons’. If true, the figure is more than 16 times the size of the 15 kiloton H-Bomb America dropped on Hiroshima in 1954.

“This large explosive yield is also quite close to what 38 North had previously determined to be the maximum estimated containable yield for the Punggye-ri test site,” said 38 North.

US officials have said they are still assessing whether it was an H-bomb, also known as a thermonuclear weapon, but that “so far there is nothing inconsistent with the North Korean claim that this was a hydrogen bomb”.

A North Korean state agency threatened on Thursday to use nuclear weapons to “sink” Japan and reduce the United States to “ashes and darkness” for supporting a UN Security Council resolution and sanctions over its latest nuclear test.

(With agency inputs) 

First Published: Sep 14, 2017 16:07 IST