- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 10, 2006

From combined dispatches

TOKYO — An earthquake of magnitude 5.8 was reported off the coast of northern Japan today, initially prompting fears that North Korea had conducted a second nuclear test.

The quake was reported by the U.S. Geological Survey, but not before American and Asian wire services reported a suspected new nuclear test by Pyongyang.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK said North Korea may have conducted another nuclear test. South Korea quickly denied the report.

In Washington, a spokesman for the National Security Council said the United States had “no confirmation” of a second nuclear test by Pyongyang.

Quoting unnamed government officials, NHK said Japan had detected a tremor from the neighboring communist country early today, which may indicate a second nuclear test.

Top Japanese officials could not confirm the report.

“I have not heard any information with that kind of sign,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in parliament when asked about the report.

Foreign Minister Taro Aso, however, did not rule out a second nuclear test.

“I am aware of information that North Korea may possibly have carried out a second nuclear test today, but there is no confirmation of it,” Mr. Aso said.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said it was still assessing whether there had been any seismic waves.

In Seoul, the South Korean presidential office quickly denied the Japanese reports.

“So far we have not received reports of fresh seismic activity,” a presidential spokesman said in the South Korean capital.

A South Korean foreign ministry official, quoted by Yonhap news agency, said there have been no signs of the North moving to conduct a second test.

“We have no information about it yet,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

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