An accurate reading of the events leading up to the present situation shows that North Korea is responding to US military escalation, and in particular to US refusal to negotiate. This includes a peace treaty to end the Korean War, any steps towards reunifying Korea, the end to the US occupation of South Korea and ending the annual month-long US-South Korean war maneuvers. Even today, it includes US refusal to talk in order to lower the tensions.
North Korea was hit with US/UN Security Council sanctions for a missile launch last year. South Korea sent off a missile this year; were there any sanctions? (Counterpunch)
It started on February 12, 2013, when North Korea conducted a successful nuclear test that greatly annoyed the United States, South Korea and others. In response to the test, on March 7, 2013, the United Nations Security Council imposed new economic sanctions against North Korea which made Mr. Kim angry. Accordingly North Korea threatened a “pre-emptive” nuclear strike against the United States. The next day it cut off its hot line with South Korea and voided its non-aggression pact with South Korea. (For a complete timeline during March see The Telegraph’s comprehensive timeline published March 30, 2013.)
Alarmed by North Korea’s unpleasant behavior, on March 19th the administration (quite unnecessarily some would say) decided to see how far a nuclear B-2 stealth bomber could fly without landing. The plane flew non-stop from the United States to the Korean Peninsula and back, dropping inert munitions on a range off South Korea’s coast. Some thought the administration could have used a calculator to see how far the planes could fly without actually doing it. Of course that would not have had the desired effect described by Gen. Martin E. Dempsey who said: “Those exercises are mostly to assure our allies that they can count on us to be prepared and to help them deter conflict.” Although actions speak louder than words it is unclear that these actions did more than words could have done.
What is clear is that the flight really upset Mr. Kim. To make matters worse and add insult to injury, on March 25th South Korea said that if North Korea “provokes South Korea . . . . the South may respond with a military strike on [among other things] statues of the North’s nation founder, Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il.” That plus the mock bombing raid was too much for Mr. Kim (Counterpunch).