North Korea has threatened “to retaliate against the U.S. with tremendous muscle” if the latter doesn’t cancel military exercises scheduled to begin tomorrow. The exercises are going ahead as planned. Earlier in the month, two South Korean soldiers were wounded along the border with North Korea. The blast came from landmines placed along a regular patrol route. The attack quickly produced a response, with the South resuming propaganda exercises within the North.
The North has once again turned to provocations and bellicosity in a bid to gain international attention. This is hardly unexpected, as it fits within a longstanding pattern of actions around the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
But after years of threatening violence, the North faces a situation where threats alone were producing diminishing returns. Where once nuclear threats were treated with the utmost gravity and pledges to attack South Korea made the North international enemy number one, the world has essentially stopped listening. As a result, actually engaging in violence is the only real method the North has left to sustain the diplomatic returns it seeks.