North Korea Continues Ratcheting Up Tensions

Continuing a strategy that began with it’s third nuclear test, North Korea now says that it has put its rocket units on the highest state of alert since the Korean War:

North Korea stepped up its aggressive rhetoric on Tuesday, ordering its rocket and long-range artillery units to be combat ready and on the “highest alert” and issuing new threats against U.S. bases on Hawaii, Guam and mainland America.

Pyongyang warned that U.S. facilities would be “reduced to ashes and flames the moment the first attack is unleashed,” according to a military order issued by the pariah state’s military “supreme command.”

It comes in response to joint military drills by U.S. and South Korean forces which began in the area early this month and which have seen U.S. bombers flying sorties threatening the North.

South Korea’s defense ministry said it saw no sign of imminent military action by North Korea Tuesday, according to Reuters.

The announcement marked a further increase in military rhetoric from Pyongyang, and followed a threat last week that it would attack U.S. bases in the Pacific if its “enemies … make even the slightest movement.”

It came as South Korea marked the third anniversary of the sinking of one its navy vessels, blamed on North Korea, which left 46 sailors dead.


The military statement, also posted on the KCNA website, said: “From this moment the… supreme command will put on the highest alert all the field artillery units including strategic rocket units and long-range artillery units which are assigned to strike bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor troops in the U.S. mainland and on Hawaii and Guam and other operational zone in the Pacific as well as all the enemy targets in south Korea and its vicinity.”

Voice of America’s Northeast Asia bureau chief, Steve Herman, quoted South Korean radio station MND saying Tuesday’s announcement is the first time North Korea has referred to “Il-ho” – its highest level combat readiness posture.

It’s hard to see exactly what the North Koreans are aiming for here.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    What are they up to? Remember that scene in Blazing Saddles where Cleavon Little holds a gun to his own head? Pretty much the same thing.

  2. legion says:

    This is actually starting to sound disturbing… I mean, if there were something in particular we knew they were pissed about, it would be explainable, but this continuing upgrading of aggressiveness doesn’t seem to have a goal. I’m starting to worry that something internal to NK has gotten to a point where somebody is thinking they don’t have anything to lose by attacking the South.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    I’ve checked our schedule and we have some time for another war, but things are still a little tight so I think we could make more time – and thus have a much more pleasant war – if NK could hold off until we’ve withdrawn a few more men from Afghanistan. Not saying we can’t fit them in, I’m just saying six months from now would be better.

  4. merl says:

    @michael reynolds: We’ll need a couple of months for the cakewalk in Iran first.

  5. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds: Google Maps won’t give directions between Kabul, Afghanistan and Pyongyang, North Korea, but Bing Maps comes up with a path that heads right through Beijing.

    Someone might want to point this out to the Chinese.

  6. CSK says:

    The last time Kim threw his toys out of the playpen they fizzled somewhere over the North Pacific, didn’t they? Still…

  7. michael reynolds says:


    Bing. Please. Like the Chinese would take Bing seriously.

  8. legion says:

    @michael reynolds: Hey, him and Bob Hope traveled all over the world!