Reports coming out of Russia are real cause for concern. As The Independent has reported in the last couple of hours, there appears to be a mass exodus of North Korean workers from Russia's Far East.
The paper quotes the Vladnews agency as saying:
'Traders have left the kiosks and markets, workers have abandoned building sites, and North Korean secret service employees working in the region have joined them and left.'
The news comes as China works to reduce tensions in what VOA News described as a 'flurry of diplomatic activity.' The Chinese effort has been kicking into gear just ahead of joint military exercises between South Korean and US forces that are set to start Sunday.
China is concerned that the planned war games, which will include the USS George Washington, will aggravate tensions further following North Korea's shelling of a South Korean island.
The fact is, though, that North Korea is well aware that these exercises have been planned for some time. The ball is therefore largely in its court. It can choose to escalate this further — it can, in effect, choose to feel threatened — or it can take a step back.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her part has been urging China to send a signal to Pyongyang, with the State Department stating that she had pressed her Chinese counterpart to 'make clear' that North Korea's actions are 'unacceptable'.
There's been a great deal of speculation about possible motivations and who in North Korea stands to benefit from the latest belligerence. If it chooses war though, I'll be hard-pressed to think of anyone that comes out of this well.