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Residents of China fear radiation from North Korea nuclear tests

By Elizabeth Shim
Residents of China fear radiation from North Korea nuclear tests
Chinese nationals living near the North Korea border are reporting they are afraid of Pyongyang’s next nuclear test. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

April 25 (UPI) -- Residents in northeast China are becoming increasingly concerned that North Korea's next nuclear test might mean radioactive contamination could spread to their towns and villages.

Chinese state tabloid Global Times reported Tuesday fear is widespread among Chinese nationals that Pyongyang's next provocation would not only lead to contamination but also cause an eruption of the volcanic Mount Paektu.

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The mountain is of symbolic significance in China and in both Koreas. In North Korea, Paektu is the official designated birthplace of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

In the city of Yanji in eastern Jilin Province, a local woman with the surname Guo said a looming North Korea test is cause for worry.

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Yanji is a mere six miles from the border.

"When North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test [in September] I could feel an earthquake," Guo was quoted as saying. "If it happens again, I fear the children and the elderly will fall into panic."

North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear site, where the last test was conducted, is about 60 miles from the border, Yonhap reported.

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North Korea's fifth test on Sept. 9 produced a 5.3-magnitude earthquake near the site.

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China's environmental agency subsequently conducted pollution tests to determine the presence of radioactive material, but the inspection at the time was described as an investigation into "natural radioactive substances."

The Global Times report on local fears of a North Korea test is an unusual move for Chinese state media, but comes at a time when Beijing is working with Washington to increase pressure on Pyongyang, and has tightened unilateral sanctions against its belligerent neighbor.

RELATED Entire Senate to visit White House this week for North Korea briefing

North Korea's nuclear weapons are a growing concern, and experts say the country is capable of producing a nuclear bomb every six or seven weeks, The New York Times reported Monday.

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