North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un has ordered his front-line units to enter "wartime state," after his troops launched artillery shells at South Korea on Thursday sparking a response.
The state-run KCNA reported an emergency meeting late Thursday in which Kim ordered "front-line large combined units" to "enter a wartime state to be fully battle ready to launch surprise operations" starting at 5 p.m. on Friday.
He also ordered "the area along the front be put in a semi-war state."
North Korea fired two shells at its southern neighbor on Thursday afternoon, leading South Korea to return fire with dozens of shells. No casualties were reported in the incident.
The escalation to "wartime state" comes even as the Washington Times revealed this week North Korea has built a covert underground missile complex at it's main Sohae missile launch facility, located near its northwestern border with China.
Quoting US officials, the paper said the complex is elaborate, with facilities to both prepare missiles for launch and store them in areas connected by rail lines. The facility took more than a decade to be completed, indicating North Korea's technological development.
American intelligence is having trouble tracking the rogue state's missile program and providing warning for launches due to the complex.
North Korea's nuclear bonanza
UN Security Council resolutions ban North Korea from launching rockets, given that the same "peaceful" space program technology is used to fire cataclysmic ballistic missiles.
Nevertheless, the state has flouted those resolutions on numerous occasions, and reportedly another launch is set for the coming weeks in Sohae.
It was revealed in May that North Korea was upgrading and expanding Sohae, allowing it to launch more sophisticated rockets. Earlier that month the regime successfully launched for the first time a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) capable of carrying a nuclear warhead from underwater. That missile joins a mobile ballistic nuclear missile unit it recently added to its arsenal.
Chinese experts warned the US in April that American estimates are wrong and North Korea actually has 20 nuclear weapons, with that arsenal to double next year thanks to the regime's higher than anticipated advanced enrichment capabilities.
The Obama administration has said that despite all this, it is willing to be as "flexible" with North Korea as Iran, calling for a new nuclear deal.
North Korea has been sharing its technology with Iran, with reports of a delegation of North Korean nuclear experts visiting Iranian nuclear installations in April – after the framework agreement limiting Iranian nuclear activity had already been presented by Western powers negotiating with Tehran.
It was reported in April that US President Barack Obama hid intel from the UN about North Korea transferring rocket components needed to create a nuclear missile to Iran even during the nuclear talks, to try and prevent the UN from acting on the information with increased sanctions.