"If a North Korean act is large scale, that might put more pressure on the U.S. to proceed directly with an action," Koblenz said. "The only way the U.S. Navy or Air Force could go after North Korea would be in very close coordination with the South Koreans."
One analyst says he believes the confrontations could continue until Kim feels secure in his post as leader of the country. John Park says the cycle of provocation and rhetoric, followed by an easing, has repeated several times except for a few big differences.
"It seems like the cycle is geared to writing a new chapter," said Park, a security fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and U.S. Institute of Peace. "Kim Jung Un is new on scene. Part of what is happening is his effort to calibrate and observe the where the new leaders flinch."
Park notes that unlike 2010, local military commanders in South Korea have been given authorization to respond more quickly and with more independence to any provocation by the North.
"The biggest difference has been the change of guidance of South Korean president to the military," Park said. The South Koreans are saying if you attack us we will take out the North Korean military high command. And what's been added is that (South Korean) President Pak stated that military commanders should feel free to retaliate immediately."