A friend mentioned that rather than the cycle of provocation that Andrei Lankov recently described, the north's provocation strategy is more like a Ponzi scheme and that got me thinking about the famed Linda Robinson question (used in another context of course - Iraq) "Tell me how this ends?"
Ponzi scheme is a good one. The problem now is that the north has a demonstrated (though nascent) nuclear capability (of which everyone seems deathly afraid) with a growing missile capability. While up through Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il their capabilities were conventional and asymmetric in many ways, they really did not have a significant nuclear capability until the very end of Kim Jong-il's lifetime. I would be less worried if Kim Jong-il were still alive because while we would still be seeing the same provocations and bellicosity I think he had a potentially better grip on reality and how far he could go (though of course he really pushed the limits in 2010 and this is the problem with the Ponzi framework laid out - Kim Jong-un seemingly has to do something worse).