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Is it a testosterone surge, a stability slump or risky business as usual?

North Korea’s extraordinary threats to immolate Washington, make a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the U.S. and quit its non-aggression pacts with South Korea following new UN economic sanctions have some Korea-watchers shuddering and others shrugging them off as déjà vu.

When North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong Un took power, there was hope that he might bring in a new era of accord on the turbulent Korean Peninsula, where threats and sometimes violent attacks have been a fact of life for generations.

But the mysterious leader has proved the optimists wrong, and...

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