How About Adding a North Korea Crisis to the Mix?

Animal hoof and mouth disease is different from human foot and mouth disease and the diseases are not transmissible from animals to humans or vice versa. However, the responsible viruses may mutate and, in any event, humans can carry highly contagious animal hoof and mouth disease to other animals. For that reason and others, it is necessary to dispose of the animal carcasses in ways likely to minimize spread of the contagion; distributing the meat and other body parts for sale, consumption, and other purposes throughout the country will only accelerate the spread of the disease.

Previously, it had been reported that the boundaries of the area within the capital city of Pyongyang had been redrawn to reduce the area dramatically; that had been attributed to food shortages and to the strain of providing the extra benefits normally given to Pyongyang residents. "About 500,000 people were excluded as Pyongyang citizens who have been relatively well-fed despite chronic food shortages." The sudden diminution of the miserable "well-being" of the already very poor can have great destabilizing consequences.

"Global warming" appears to be harassing North Korea's west coast and in consequence deliveries (presumably from China) have been infrequent for about forty-five days; the problem is expected to continue for another ten days or so:

The North’s state media reported last month that temperatures in December and January had been markedly colder than usual, causing hardship for "the people’s lives."

South Korean humanitarian aid groups that maintain contact with the North said the harsh conditions had severely compounded existing malnutrition and shelter problems.

Pyongyang has reportedly stepped up its calls for aid from the international community in recent weeks amid what the aid groups consider a worsening humanitarian situation.

Despite or perhaps because of these conditions, North Korea has moved about half of its three hundred Kong Bang hovercraft south to a port close to disputed islands near South Korea. Each carries a platoon of soldiers, about thirty, and "can travel about 250 kilometers, at a speed of about 80 kilometers an hour":

Lack of fuel and spare parts limits training for these hovercraft, so any combat use would essentially be with poorly trained and inexperienced crews. Originally intended for delivering commandos quickly, the hovercraft are fast, but noisy and very vulnerable to any kind of gunfire or explosives.

A base for "about 70 hovercraft is reaching completion at Koampo, South Hwanghae Province, 50 to 60 km from Baeknyeong Island in the West Sea."

Meanwhile, and probably as a way to ransom "humanitarian aid," the DPRK is completing a tunnel needed for another nuclear test. It is in North Hamgyong Province, the site of two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, and has progressed "to a depth of 800 m. Another 200 m is all that is needed to conduct a third nuclear test. The DPRK has also completed a new missile launch pad in Tongchang-ri in North Pyongyan Province":

Pyongyang is probably surprised by the steadfast stance of the South Korean and U.S. governments since the launch of the Lee Myung-bak administration, despite its provocations. As a result, it may well be cooking up a scheme that it hopes will shock Seoul and Washington. In other words, the next provocation could be the worst one so far. Experts speculate North Korea could attempt multiple attacks simultaneously including a nuclear test, a terror attack on a South Korean city and property, and assassination of a South Korean official.