N.Korean Forces 'Told to Get Ready for Combat'

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has ordered the military to be ready for combat, a Seoul-based defectors' group said Tuesday quoting a source in the reclusive country.

North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity said when South Korea announced the findings of a probe into the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan last Thursday, O Kuk-ryol, the vice chairman of the North's National Defense Commission, in a statement said Kim ordered the entire military, the Ministry of Public Security, the State Security Department, the Worker-Peasant Red Guard, and the Red Youth Guard to be ready for combat."

Kim's order was relayed via wire broadcasting to a speaker installed in each home. These broadcasts are often used by the regime when it disseminates information that it does not want to be known abroad.

Crenels are open at a North Korean guard post along the demilitarized zone on Monday. Crenels are open at a North Korean guard post along the demilitarized zone on Monday.

A South Korean security official said the government is "trying to verify" the report. According to the defectors' group, O, who is in charge of operations against the South, called the Cheonan incident a "plot to strangle" the North. Kim commanded that the North should "achieve the reunification of the fatherland by all means" since it failed during the Korean War, O said.

Kim Sung-min, the head of defector station Free North Korea Radio said North Korean soldiers on furlough or official trips have been ordered to return to barracks.

A North Korean source said security guards in the North Korea-China border regions were ordered to punish South Koreans in China found slandering the North over the Cheonan incident.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency the same day reported in detail on South Korean sanctions against the North. It threatened to "respond to any kind of punishment, retaliation, or sanctions with tough measures, including an all-out war" and repeated an earlier statement saying it regards the current situation as "a phase in the war."

englishnews@chosun.com / May 26, 2010 11:56 KST