Despite the rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, Kim Jong Un can still muster a smile on his face.Corbis Images
Rising tensions on the Korean peninsula have both North Korea and South Korea militaries on alert and ready for a possible conflict, a result of bellicose statements from the Hermit Kingdom threatening the security of the South and its ally, the United States. North Korea has even gone so far as to threaten a preemptive nuclear strike.
Although the war of words has reached a new level, with the North Korean leadership more aggressive than it has been in recent memory, the DPRK has a history of using provocative language and then abruptly going silent. In other words, empty threats.
North Korea hosts a parade following a successful missile test.Corbis Images
The latest round of North Korean verbal assaults was prompted by annual military drills conducted between the United States and South Korea. These drills have long been seen by North Korea as an excuse for its perceived enemies to invade.
North Korea has also come under fresh international sanctions in response to its nuclear test conducted last month, with the DPRK allegedly using a lighter, miniaturized nuclear device with a greater explosive potential, according to the BBC News. This has raised concerns that Pyongyang intends to fit the device on a long-range missile.
Prior to the test, the Hermit Kingdom warned issued a warning in January prior to the test claiming that its nuclear program would target the United States, as reported by the New York Times.
North Korean state television broadcasts the launch of Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite.Corbis Images
In October 2012, a North Korean spokesperson stated that Pyongyang was developing missiles capable of reaching the United States mainland.
The message itself was an implicit threat and two months later North Korea launched a three-stage rocket and appeared to deploy a satellite into orbit.
This photo shows the site at which the missile test was initiated, at the Sohae Satellite Launch Station.
Kim Jong Un appears before North Korean military leaders in April 2012.Getty Images
North Korea had initially attempted to test a long-range missile in April 2012, an effort that proved a public failure, despite initial claims by the leadership to the contrary.
That same month, Pyongyang, reacting what they claim was an insult from the South on the centennial of DPRK founder Kim Il Sung, vowed to retaliate by "by unprecedented peculiar means and methods of our own style," according to a report by The Guardian.
Pyongyang insisted it would "reduce all the rat-like groups and the bases for provocations to ashes in three or four minutes, (or) in much shorter time."
The aftermath of the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in South Korea.Corbis Images
Often, North Korea will threaten its southern neighbor with no real action taken. Other times, however, unexplained aggression on the part of the Hermit Kingdom can lead to loss of life.
As South Korea was engaged in military drills in 2010, soldiers in North Korea fired around 100 artillery shells into Yeonpyeong Island. The barrage killed four civilians and injured 19 others, and set dozens of homes ablaze.
North Korea not only didn't make any attempt to repair the damage caused to relations with the South; DPRK soldiers even bragged about the incident on state television.
A memorial for the anniversary of the shelling on Yeonpyeong Island.Corbis Images
One year after the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, North Korea vowed to surround the South Korean presidential palace with a "sea of fire."
The South had staged military exercise to mark the anniversary of the shelling. One day later, the North reacted.
Kim Jong Un appears alongside members of the North Korean military during an official visit.Corbis Images
In August 2012, Kim Jong Un visited soldiers stationed on Mu Island, the same group that participated in the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island two years earlier, according to CNN.
The visit came at the same time as joint U.S.-South Korean military drills.
In an address to his troops, Kim urged them to be vigilant, according to state television, and echoed Pyongyang's April remarks of a "sacred war" on the horizon.
South Korean sailors at a funeral for those who died aboard following the ROKS Cheonan sinking.Getty Images
In another act of overt aggression, a torpedo launched by a North Korean submarine struck a South Korean navy ship in March 2010.
Not only did Pyongyang deny the attack; they even called a report implicating them the following month a "fabrication" and threatened war if sanctions resulted, as reported by BBC News.
North Koreans bow in front of statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.Getty Images
In January 2009, as the Obama administration was entering office, North Korea issued a statement denying the possibility of establishing diplomatic ties by disarming their nuclear program.
In fact, Pyongyang boasted that the country has weaponized enough plutonium to make four or five warheads, according to press reports.