Secretary of State John Kerry has said North Korea's new round of saber rattling and threats to step up its nuclear weapons and missile programs are unacceptable. He has added the U.S. will do whatever it must to safeguard its interests and its allies, including South Korea.
To that, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un may be responding with a yawn. He has heard it all before. So did his father and his grandfather before him.
The truth is that the U.S. and many others in the international community have allowed North Korea to get away with a military buildup, threats and sometimes violence against South Korea, for decades. Promises uncounted have been made by Pyongyang and just as regularly broken. Now North Korea is more dangerous than ever - and no one, including China, seems able to rein in the apparent madness.
That makes the current confrontation extremely dangerous, simply because it makes the risk of miscalculation by Kim very real. He now believes he can get away, quite literally, with murder.
So, while the U.S., South Korea and the rest of the international community should be discussing how to curb the rogue state once and for all, the primary task now should be to avoid an accidental conflagration.
If North Korea goes too far, Kim's regime should be punished severely - but not through a bloody war no one really wants.