"Are you going to just bark little doggie, or are you going to bite?" Mr. Blonde in Reservoir Dogs.
When you go back in time to the Cheonan episode, one may wonder if the ROK-US response was harsh enough, if it's potentially such a dangerous situation that isn't really a criticism either.
That is because the best simulations of a North Korean artillery barrage, "just" the good guns, and only 2/3s, conservative estimates that only have them popping shells off, and with a dud rate revealed to be seemingly high at the Yeopyeong Island episode, get a lot of people killed, in a one round barrage: 3,000 ROK civilians.
For the sake of argument, suppose one adopted the popular game theoretic, and practical in daily life strategy, of Tit for Tat right after the Cheonan was publicly announced as an act of the DPRK, and therefore ordered some kind of strike on the North Korean Navy, and then said, "Are you going to just bark little doggie, or are you going to bite?"
That alternative universe is defensible as a strategy, if it would have left pits in people's stomachs too, for good reason: "What if the North fires one round of artillery?"
What followed the sinking of the Cheonan was instead a series of military drills of great intensity, to demonstrate resolve, which ended in Yeopyeong Island, and then, de-escalation.
As to why that matters now, first, it is widely believed, even among Kim Jong Un fans in the West (who see him as more modern than Jong Il, partly because educated in the West), was deeply involved in the Cheonan and subsequent events (the story goes to show he was a tough guy to the Korean People's Army, which is certainly plausible as to a 25 year old, even named Brilliant General, having some credibility issues, resolved by taking a calculated gamble by going to the edge of war, and then though retreating.)
Second and more directly to the point, consider where we stand now after the succession to Jong Il, something that raised a lot of hopes in the ROK, Japan, and the U.S. that maybe things would be different, at least in a little while.
So, Jong Un does give speeches that are conciliatory in the way of the North, which is to say somewhat in a relative sense of implacable hostility, but then does the first satellite test/launch in April 2012.
Granted, there were observers allowed, and it was Kim Il Sung's birthday, in which it is always required to say the same day as the Titanic sunk; just one of those conventions.
Now as to the concerns some had at that launch, the author included as to the possibility, and it is only that, a technical possibility and not the most likely case, one could put an EMP weapon on such a vehicle.
(The North didn't have a clean room, important for electrostatic charge purposes as to real satellites, and there was a bolt and wire visibly loose, strange in the latter case if it was really a satellite, if incompetence is the usual explanation, instead of both being visible signals that it was in fact not a satellite but the obvious type of weapon, polar orbit and altitude supporting that idea, plus though a lot of big ifs as to connecting dots, xenon emissions for boosted fission necessary to generate an EMP blast, and miniturization as to that, feasible in a "layer cake" design, plus the amount of the payload as to mass, which is always something of a rough estimate unless you really climb under the hood so to speak, in terms of 100 kilograms not possible, 200 a different story, since you don't need an RV for an EMP weapon.)
That launch in fact had some considering shooting it down, and the DPRK may have rushed it for that reason, although there could be other things going on too, if that leads us to the second launch in December, which gives us our current situation.
Again, there were auspicious reasons to do the launch as to the neo-Confucian basis of the DPRK that pretty much most people, like or dislike the DPRK, accept as its base; a birthday celebration before, the death of Jong Il later, as to timing and these things just being symbolism. See Schiller for that argument in RAND. He thinks these are all merely bluffs, if of course that is a terrible risk to run too, as to running into a Mr. Blonde some day saying, "Are you going to just bark little doggie, or are you going to bite?"
(Those who know DPRK history should find the film analogy amusing, and scary.)
There were other reasons for the second launch bandied about, elections in Japan and the ROK, as to maybe wanting a confrontational relationship, as usual to rationalize your own power.
And it could be that is all this is, bluffing and such.
However, if the DPRK were to test a nuclear weapon at full power, instead of the seeming fizzles or miniturized weapons at low power, that would be potentially closer to a Reservoir Dogs scenario, the next time they put a missile on the launch pad, since it might or might not have a weapon capable of striking the United States, in which they might have KN-08s that are road-mobile, which then would have a momentous decision to make: shoot it down or not?
Of course, one could just wait, like with the Cheonan, and maybe nothing bad happens.
That was hard on the crew, but they understand that is better than the shelling of Seoul.
On the other hand, there were and are risks from that original response to Jong Un too.
As to maybe the most helpful analogy, consider another Tarrantino movie, Pulp Fiction, and the scene at the end with the robbery.
Maybe Samuel L. Jackson had it right in a mixture of giving them money but keeping his wallet, if while pointing his own hand cannon at the young excitable robbers, and keeping everyone Fonzie Cool, noting that he recognized the robbers so to speak, remained calm, and didn't give away too much or too little, and most definitely pointed a hand cannon at them, as to some clear statement unlike Acheson in 1950 that if a North Korean little doggie wants to bark, that's fine, but if he bites anyone, that's a dead doggie, but otherwise live and let live, even recognized with one last bit of food to tide the little doggie over, or otherwise that little doggie has to be put to sleep as a rabid North Korean Dwarf doggie.