As Rory Medcalf suggested in his contribution, the reactions of countries threatened by North Korea's latest nuclear-tipped bombast are playing out better than in previous episodes. This may be one of the reasons the twenty-something leader of North Korea is so quickly ratcheting up his threats.
So far, there is no sign that the new leadership in Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing or the new team at the White House is reacting by calling for compromise with Pyongyang or for restarting the moribund Six-Party Talks.
As we have seen before, rewarding North Korea for its threatening behaviour has not led Pyongyang to feel more secure and become less threatening. Rather, as should be expected, it seems to have sent the message that repeated belligerence is repeatedly successful.
As highlighted by Foreign Minister Carr, there is a growing willingness for affected parties to encourage, publicly and privately, the People's Republic of China to alter its long-standing support towards its North Korean ally and for the US to further enhance security cooperation with South Korea and Japan. The apparent cooling of relations between North Korea and the PRC and the fact that North Korean actions undermine Chinese regional strategic interests may make Beijing more receptive to this advice.
North Korean behaviour needs to change to bring long-term security to the Korean Peninsula. Rewarding North Korea for its belligerence is not the way to achieve this. Increasing the costs to the North Korean regime of this repeated behaviour pattern and strengthening cooperation among those affected by this belligerence is the much better option and the one that, so far, is being pursued. Let's hope China, a fellow communist regime, sees the wisdom in this and changes its own behaviour accordingly.
Photo by Flickr user UNC - CFC - USFK.