North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un shown after latest ICBM test
Yesterday North Korea test fired an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile which "apparently flew higher and longer than previous such launches"  landing in the Sea of Japan.
It was the first ballistic missile test of its kind by North Korea in over two months.
In that interim the US has sent three carrier task force groups off the Korean Peninsula, flown nuclear capable B-1 bombers over South Korea and conducted joint military exercises with South Korea and Japan in the waters off the Peninsula clearly seen as provocations by North Korea.
Then last week the Trump administration put North Korea on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, a provocation that may have precipitated yesterday's ICBM launch.
What seems clear, Kim Jong-Un won't be bullied by Trump's threats of being "locked and loaded" and delivering "fire and fury".
But let's go beyond all the bluster and saber rattling to understand the reality facing North Korea.
Firstly, North Korea developed its nuclear arms and ballistic missiles as a deterrent against a US attack. Simply put the regime could not survive without it.
North Korea and Kim also know if they were to initiate a nuclear attack they would face certain annihilation. So they would never initiate an attack.
But make no mistake, if North Korea were attacked even with conventional weapons they would retaliate. Even with conventional weapons Seoul and Tokyo would suffer untold devastation.
It is known North Korea's long range artillery is buried deep within the mountains and could not be destroyed even by a nuclear attack.
But with all the US provocations volatility keeps getting ratcheted up and unintentional incidents or accidents could occur which could be interpreted by the North as a military attack.
Plus the neo-cons in official Washington, always itching for more war, could initiate a false flag attack, blame it on the North Korean's with them retaliating and a full scale war could commence that way.
Let's remember that is not beyond the realm of possibility as the US has initiated false flag attacks most prominently in the Tonkin Gulf in 1965 off the then North Vietnam coast blaming the North for initiating an attack on a US destroyer when in fact it was a CIA initiated attack provoking North Vietnamese gunboats to retaliate. As we know the truth of that false flag was kept secret at the time with the Congress "understanding" it as an unprovoked attack by the North. It then passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution which President Lyndon Johnson signed escalating the Vietnam war, resulting in the unnecessary death of over 57,000 GI's and millions of innocent Vietnamese.
During the cold war with the Soviet Union nuclear war was averted only because a Soviet radar technician didn't believe what he was observing on his screen, that the US was initiating a nuclear missile strike and didn't follow protocol calling for a Soviet retaliatory strike on the US.