North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un has ordered his frontline troops to prepare for wartime, according to state media’s report on Friday, amid tensions with South Korea as fires are exchanged across borders.
"Kim Jong-Un issued an order of the supreme commander of the Korean People's Army (KPA) that the frontline large combined units of the KPA should enter a wartime state to be fully battle ready to launch surprise operations," said North Korean sources.
North and South Korea have exchanged fire across their borders on Thursday, adding fuel to the ongoing tension between the two rival states.
The exchange came after mine blasts that injured two members of the South’s border patrol troops at the beginning of August, and South Korea’s joint military exercise with the US this week.
South Korea’s Defence Ministry said the North fired a single artillery at around 4:00pm on Thursday, which it followed up with several more.
The South then retaliated with dozens of “rounds of 155mm shells” targeting the North.
“We are closely following the developments with serious concern, and we will revert as the situation evolves,” said UN spokeswoman Eri Kaneko.
South Korean residents living close to the North border were ordered to evacuate their homes while troops were placed on maximum alert.
"Such provocative actions heighten tensions, and we call on Pyongyang to refrain from actions and rhetoric that threaten regional peace and security," said the US State Department spokeswoman.
Pyongyang was believed to have been developing missile technologies under the autocratic leadership of Kim Jong-un, but it had only tested missiles on land and sea platforms.
Pyongyang is supposedly to have 70 to 90 submarines, all of which are scraped Soviet-era vessels.
North Korea is one of the nine nuclear-armed nations and among the four countries which have never signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
Normally, direct exchanges of fire are extremely rare between North and South Korea, according to analysts.