With South Korea marking the third anniversary of North Korea’s sinking of the ROKS Cheonan today, Pyongyang’s state media announced that the country was going into a “No. 1 combat readiness status.” South Korean officials and North Korean exiles said the media report was the first time the term No. 1 combat readiness status has been used, and speculated that it was the highest state of alert that could be undertaken.
"From this moment, the Supreme Command puts all of its field artillery including strategic rocket units and long-range artillery units into the No. 1 combat ready posture," the Supreme Command of the North Korean Army said in a statement Yonhap News Agency reported citing a report carried by North Korea’s state media.
The statement, citing the U.S. recently flying B-52 nuclear-capable bombers in South Korean skies as part of an ongoing annual military drill, went on to say: “"The U.S. nuclear war racket has gone beyond the danger line and entered the phase of an actual war, defying the repeated warnings from the army and people of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).”
The strategic rocket and long range arterially units are supposedly aimed at U.S. bases in the region like Guam, as well as the U.S. homeland.
According to News Focus International, a site run by North Korean exiles, the statement also said: ““Remember that at our first shot everything will be blown away, everything will turn to ash.”
News Focus International also explained the significance of No. 1 combat readiness status as referring to Kim Jong-un himself. “The use of ‘Grade 1′ is an unusual move. This is because in North Korea, ‘Grade 1′ is considered as a sanctified adjective and is reserved for the ruling Kim,” the website said, speculating that in this context it was implying that the order had been given by Kim Jong-un personally.
This would be consistent with what has been coming out of North Korea in recent weeks. As many South Korean media outlets have noted, in recent days the North Korean media has been carrying of reports of Kim Jong-un visiting multiple military sites each day. This stands in contrast to last week when Kim Jong-un spent an entire day discussing light industry at a conference.
According to Daily NK, another website run by North Korean exiles that has many sources inside the country, North Korea's reserve forces have been in a state of mobilization for over three months since the country’s rocket launch back in December.
Over the past month mobilization drills have been intensified to include the entire population, according to Daily NK, which again cited sources inside North Korea.