Daily NK has learned that the North Korean military recently ordered training camps in all branches into “No. 1 combat posture.” The order also announced impending “mock attack drills” by mechanized units.

According to a Daily NK source in the North Korean military on Tuesday, the Operations Bureau of the General Staff Department issued the order by cable on Oct. 22.

More specifically, the order called on training camps in all services to hold underground command exercises for 15 days from Oct. 23 to Nov. 6. The camps’ forces should maintain top readiness to move to a designated mobile strike location at a moment’s notice and destroy a target selected by the General Staff Department.

The order seems to be a response to South Korea’s “Hoguk Exercise 2021” from Oct. 25 to Nov. 5. The mobile field exercise aims to bolster the joint strategic operational capabilities of the South Korean army, navy, air force and marines.

However, the order is highly extraordinary for the North Korean military, which is currently preparing for upcoming operational and “combat politics” training for 2021-2022.

The source said, “October and November are when the military is preparing for winter and training, so an order from the General Staff calling for 15 days of underground command drills, mobile strikes and training camps going on No. 1 combat readiness is very rare.

“The command, which recognized the training camps as a leading ‘Makhno Unit’ [referring to the 20th century Ukrainian anarchist], apparently believes they need to get a hold of discipline,” he added. 

The order is also believed to be part of prior preparations for the upcoming winter training (December to March of next year), which will focus on operations with mechanized units. This means military authorities believe they need to verify the readiness of training camps, which are primarily mechanized units.

In fact, the order from the Operations Bureau of the General Staff Department calls on training camps to adopt a state of “No. 1 combat readiness,” dividing them into “east” and “west” armies. That is to say, the training armies of east and west are to be composed of mechanized units from three training camps in their respective zones, said the source.

These units will train to attack targets selected in accordance with General Staff Department orders delivered to their respective headquarters, which will be conducting underground drills.

Meanwhile, the training camps will reportedly have a tough time completely focusing on the drill due to usual winter training preparations, winter preparations and other “external” activities, though the circumstances of individual camps slightly differ.

However, the source says the mood within the military is that 95% or more of the personnel tasked with the underground command drills – the focus of this military exercise – must take part if units are to avoid punishment.

No. 1 Combat Readiness: This is a state of readiness in which units can immediately shift to wartime footing whenever a war breaks out.

The “No. 1” here means maintaining a state of readiness no less than actual war, embodying the strong will of the supreme commander, Kim Jong Un. It is reportedly used when Kim or the General Staff Department issues orders, too.

Because of this, a distinction is made with “wartime readiness” or “semi-wartime readiness,” which can be ordered only by Kim himself. As we can ascertain from above, No. 1 Combat Readiness appears to be the highest level of peacetime readiness the General Staff Department can order.

The General Staff Department previously ordered the East and West Sea fleets into a state of “No. 1 combat readiness” following the shooting of a South Korean civil servant in the West Sea in September of last year.

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