North Korea is now under martial law and leader Kim Jong Un has told frontline troops to prepare for war, amid reports that Pyongyang will carry out its third nuclear test, according to South Korean media on Thursday.
Kim gave the secret order to “complete preparations for a nuclear weapons test between Tuesday and yesterday,” reported the JoongAng Ilbo, a South Korean national daily. “The country will be under martial law starting from midnight Jan. 29 and all the frontline and central units should be ready for a war,” Kim reportedly said.
An inside source in North Hamkyung Province told the Daily NK website that on Jan. 30, “the status change to preparation for combat mobilization was declared today at midnight.”
According to the Daily NK, North Korea has several readiness states for its military: “alert, combat alert, preparation for combat mobilization, combat mobilization, quasi-state of war, and state of war.” It means that out of the six stages, North Korea is currently at the third step.
“Worker and Peasant Red Guards were issued with real guns rather than replicas, and the security services went out onto the streets to maintain order,” the source said.
In 1993, North Korea withdrew from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and then told the military to be in a “quasi-state of war.”
Due to the massive media restrictions in the reclusive, communist state, it is nearly impossible to tell if Pyongyang will take any further steps.
Kim also specifically made commands to take “effective, high-profile state measures,” and he “assigned specific tasks” to officials, reported the JoongAng. These directives were apparently triggered after the United Nations Security Council imposed more sanctions on the regime.
The newspaper also reported that a nuclear test would come sooner than previously expected, possibly being held on Feb. 16, which is the birthday of dead leader Kim Jong Il.
North Korea carried out its first nuclear test in 2006 and conducted another underground test in 2009. The currently planned nuclear test is in response to sanctions and criticism after it successfully launched a rocket, which Pyongyang claimed was to put a satellite in orbit, but later said was basically a ballistic missile.
On Thursday, South Korea warned the North that it would face “grave consequences” if the nuclear test goes through, according to the Yonhap News Agency.
“If North Korea misjudges the situation and pushes ahead with a provocation again, it will cause very grave consequences,” presidential spokesman Park Jeong-ha told Yonhap. “The government urges North Korea to immediately halt all provocative words and actions and comply with international obligations.”
Yonhap quoted a South Korean government official in saying that if the nuclear test is carried out, it will serve to bolster the morale of the military in supporting Kim and will be used to rally the public.
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