Blast, Mushroom Cloud Reported in N. Korea
1 hour, 9 minutes ago
(ED NOTE: this story was discredited.)
By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA, Associated Press Writer
SEOUL, South Korea -
A large explosion occurred in the northern part of North Korea (news - web sites), sending a huge mushroom cloud into the air on an important anniversary of the communist regime, a South Korean news agency reported Sunday.
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 2-2 1/2 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 occasion 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.
Kim Hyong Jik is reported to hold a major missile base. North Korea, which has a large missile arsenal and more than 1 million soldiers, is dotted with military installations.
South Korea (news - web sites)'s Unification Minister Chung Dong-young said Sunday the government was in the process of confirming reports there were signs of an explosion in North Korea.
"I am not aware of details such as the size of the damage," he was quoted as saying by Yonhap after a National Security Council meeting.
On Saturday, North Korea said recent revelations that South Korea conducted secret nuclear experiments involving uranium and plutonium made the communist state more determined to pursue its own atomic programs.
The South Korean experiments, conducted in 1982 and 2000, were likely to further complicate the already stalled six-nation talks aimed at dismantling the North's nuclear development. South Korea has said the experiments were purely for research and did not reflect a desire to develop weapons.
On April 22, train wagons at a railway station exploded in the North Korean town of Ryongchon, killing 160 people and injuring an estimated 1,300, according to some estimates. The blast was believed to have been sparked by a train laden with oil and chemicals that hit power lines.
The source in the Yonhap report said Thursday's explosion reportedly was bigger than the train explosion.