The situation on the Korean peninsula is not getting any better today, as the North continues to posture as though it's ready to start a war. Reports arrived on Friday morning that Pyongyang has loaded two mid-range ballistic missiles onto mobile launch platforms, which they promptly hid somewhere along the east coast. The North has also reportedly suggested to the Russian, British, and other governments that they might want to evacuate their embassy, a move meant to suggest that things could soon get ugly.
They've also let slip that Kim Jong-un has beefed up his private security detail, again acting as though he believes trouble is coming.
The American government is trying to project an "all-is calm" attitude about the increasingly hostile maneuvers—a "regrettable but familiar" pattern, according to White House Spokesperson Jay Carney—but their actions definitely betray a note of concern. They're moving forward with plans to put a missile defense battery in Guam, while South Korea has deployed two Aegis destroyer ships (equipped with state of the art radar systems) off their own coasts to be on alert for flying objects.
This military brinksmanship has gone about as far as it can go without any shots being fired, and no one is sure if this might be the one time when things go even further. There is the possibility that any missile launch by Pyongyang would be labeled a "test launch," but when you've already primed everyone for war, it's easy for people on the other side to get the wrong idea. Even though they can't carry nuclear weapons, the Northern missiles in question could reach anywhere on the peninsula, as well as Japan.
Meanwhile, there are still about 600 South Koreans still working at the Kaesong industrial plant north of the border, holding down the fort despite the fact that their co-workers continue to be barred from crossing the border to relieve them. There's also been a ripple effect across the entire South Korean economy as war fears have put the brakes on local financial markets. With the birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il-Sung ten days away, and the dynasty's tendency to "celebrate" such events with bombs and rockets, don't expect the belligerence to dial itself down just yet.