It is hard to tell what is real in the ongoing Korean ‘crisis’ and what is contrived. Up to a point – after all, it is in no one’s interest to frighten the markets too badly – it suits both sides to foster a sense of crisis. For Kim Jong-un and his generals a crisis atmosphere is a way to exert pressure for full admission to the nuclear club. For the American rulers and their allies it is also a way to exert pressure – and push North Korea firmly out of the club.
Of course, a good external scare always comes in handy on the domestic front, especially at times when mass misery might otherwise fuel rebellion. It provides an excuse for deteriorating conditions of life, redirects discontent outward and rallies the populace around national leaders.