Twice in the past month, I have written about how North Korea is a greater nuclear threat than Iran. I've stressed the world needs to take immediate action to prevent an attack that could kill thousands if not millions. Looking at recent history, this scenario is even more apparent.
When the U.N. Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions against North Korea last week, the Kim Jung-Un regime immediately announced it would pull out of the 1953 truce that ended hostilities of the Korean Conflict and cut all ties with the south. On March 11, these actions were confirmed to have taken place. In its announcement, the North Korean spokesman said "the time for final showdown has arrived." This is not a threat. Doing nothing, waiting until the attack occurs, and then reacting is a mistake.
Skirmishes across the demilitarized zone are nothing new. However, in 1999, 2002, 2009, and 2010 North Korea, in response to what it perceived to be threats to its sovereignty or imposed international sanctions, took action on the high seas, attacking and sinking South Korean naval vessels. (2009 attack resulted in severe damage to the North Korean ship.) Also in 2010, North Korean artillery shelled Yeonpyeong Island, killing two civilians.
All these attacks were preceded by periods of threats. However, the intensity of the language coming of North Korea has never been as high. Following the announcement that they were pulling out of the truce, Washington toughened the sanctions by cutting off the foreign trade of North Korea from U.S. markets. Further, National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon emphasized the U.S. will not accept empty promises as it has in the past.
South Korean and U.S. forces, in addition to participating in joint military exercises, are on a heightened state of alert. When the exercises end March 22 I doubt any forces will relax. If history is any indication, there may be a better indication of when North Korea will attack by then.