- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 12, 2004

SEOUL (AP) — A large explosion occurred in the northern part of North Korea, sending a huge mushroom cloud into the air on an important anniversary of the communist regime, a South Korean news agency reported today.

The Yonhap news agency, citing an unidentified source in Beijing, said the explosion happened Thursday in Yanggang province near the border with China. The explosion in Kim Hyong Jik county blasted a crater big enough to be noticed by a satellite, the source said.

“We understand that a mushroom-shaped cloud about 3.5 to 4 kilometers (about 2 to 2 miles) in diameter was monitored during the explosion,” Yonhap quoted an unidentified diplomatic source in Seoul as saying.

North Korea was founded Sept. 9, 1948. Leader Kim Jong-il uses the anniversary to stage performances and other events to bolster loyalty among the impoverished North Korean population.

Experts have speculated that North Korea might use a major anniversary to conduct a nuclear-related test, though there was no immediate indication that Thursday’s reported explosion was linked to Pyongyang’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

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