Five major world powers have labeled Iran and North Korea as "serious challenges" to the world's nuclear security, saying they have defied U.N. sanctions.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is noisily threatening a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula, which would seriously undermine the stability of the east Asia region.
Valerie Plame Wilson, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville's 2013 Distinguished Lecturer, thinks North Korea is "clearly a cult masquerading" as a state.
"There has been, everyone has noted, behavior in a sense like the toddlers of the international system, who say they are going to hold their breath and turn blue until they get what they want," she said. "And guess what? It happens. It works. We concede. They get more food, they get more aid, they get more energy, and yet they continue with their very abhorrent behavior."
Plame Wilson is heartened to see China, "the only country with leverage" with the North Koreans, is applying some real pressure. She thinks there is much more behind the scenes.
"They have their own reasons for wanting to keep the 'enfant terrible' screaming over there," Plame Wilson said. "They don't want to see a unified democratic Korean Peninsula for their own reasons."
Reality might trump political considerations.
"I think even finally China's leaders realize they just can't let this continue to keep going," Plame Wilson said.
John Rink, a UW-P political science professor, agrees.
"Note that China has long since lost patience with the North Korean regime and now looks like a frustrated parent who wants to take the keys to the car away from its rambunctious teenager," he said. "The stakes are high for China, too. That's the government that could step in first to keep things from getting completely out of hand. That's why we must act in close cooperation with China, South Korea, Japan and Russia. Although the provocations have been more than enough to justify very strong action, we need to work carefully and put consultation first."
Plame Wilson is troubled by Seoul, South Korea's seemingly complacent attitude.
"They are way too placid," she said. "Hundreds of thousands of people would be obliterated within seconds of a nuclear attack launched from North Korea."
However, she doesn't think the North Koreans are suicidal.
"Their leader recognizes that within 10 minutes of launching an attack, he would be vaporized," Plame Wilson said. "But he is young and untested, with way too much testosterone. His grandfather and father did understand the limits, but he has relatively little life experience that I find it deeply troubling."
Rink thinks the U.S. is well-positioned to defend the region.