This is exactly what I have been thinking. Americans tend to greatly misunderstand the stalemate on the Korean Peninsula. "The widespread mocking of Kim Jong-un as a freakish buffoon is a sign of our misguided approach. Viewing him as a joke is a mistake not because it’s rude, but because it contributes to a dangerous underestimation of his power. Mr. Kim has managed to rule for almost six years as a brutal totalitarian dictator. He may be many things, but he is not a lightweight. Leaders do not survive under such circumstances without being superb politicians.
Sanctions and threats haven’t worked in the past, and more of the same most certainly will not work in the future. As his father and grandfather did, Mr. Kim meets pressure with pressure. It is no surprise that a surge in missile tests came as the Trump administration has made threats about sending aircraft carriers and potential pre-emptive strikes. North Korea isn’t unpredictable; rather, it is the most predictable country on earth.
The North Koreans are also very calculating. By aiming test missiles at Japan, Pyongyang is sending a clear signal: Take a preventive shot at our missile sites, and we will take a shot at Japan, most likely at the roughly 50,000 American military personnel stationed at United States bases there. It would not be the start of a second Korean War, but rather a poke for a poke. Would the United States really want to up the ante a second time? Would Japan, China and South Korea want to?"