North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered his frontline troops to be on a war footing, state media says, after an exchange of fire with the South across their heavily fortified border.
The KCNA report said Mr Kim declared a “semi-state of war” at an emergency meeting late Thursday.
It threatened action unless Seoul ends its anti-Pyongyang border broadcasts.
The North often uses fierce rhetoric when tensions rise and it has made similar declarations before.
The BBC’s South Korea correspondent Steve Evans says that although this ritual of aggression often sees such language escalate to the firing of ammunition, this time the rhetoric is fiercer and and artillery shells are now in use.
KCNA reported that Mr Kim had ordered that troops be “fully ready for any military operations at any time” from 17:00 Friday local time (08:30 GMT), at the emergency meeting of the central military commission.
Earlier, the North warned that it would take strong military action if the South does not end border propaganda broadcasts and dismantles the broadcast facilities “within 48 hours”.
However, in a separate letter Pyongyang said it was willing to resolve the issue even though it considers the broadcasts a declaration of war, South Korea’s unification ministry said, according to Reuters.
The tensions were ratcheted up after North Korea on Thursday shelled across the border reportedly to protest against the propaganda broadcasts which restarted after a hiatus of 11 years.
Loudspeakers and psychological warfare
In 2004, South Korea and North Korea reached an agreement to dismantle their propaganda loudspeakers at the border.
The broadcasts were part of a programme of psychological warfare, according to South Korean newspaper Korea Times, to deliver outside news so that North Korean soldiers and border-area residents could hear it.
On 10 August this year, South Korea restarted broadcasting in an apparent reaction to two South Korean soldiers being injured in a landmine explosion in the demilitarised zone that was blamed on the North.
Military authorities say days later the North also restarted its broadcasting of anti-South propaganda.
However, some reports said that the quality of the North Korean loudspeakers is so bad that it is difficult to understand what they are saying.-BBC News