It’s a measure of the Kim regime’s rhetoric of the past few months that Jim Clancy can describe a threat like “all the traitors will be wiped out to the last man” as an improvement.  The anniversary of the birthday of Kim Il-sung takes place tomorrow, but Clancy says there has been a small but noticeable reduction in the provocative elements in Pyongyang’s statements over the last 24 hours:

Two points to consider here.  First, Kim Jong-un hasn’t been seen in public for two weeks, Clancy reports, including — apparently — the observation of his grandfather’s birthday.  That seems a little odd, although Clancy doesn’t elaborate.  One would think the regime would put the young dictator on display to remind people of the dynastic continuity of the DPRK.  Second: Although Pyongyang sneered a bit at Seoul’s call for renewed talks, they didn’t reject the idea, either.

Perhaps this resulted from the declarations of renewed US-China cooperation on bringing North Korea to heel:

U.S. and Japanese officials say their countries are committed to new talks with North Korea if the reclusive communist government begins abiding by previous agreements on its nuclear program. …

Kerry also said the U.S. is committed to defending Japan and opposes any coercive action by China to seize territory under Japanese control in the East China Sea.

Kerry’s strong words of support Sunday for America’s ally come just a day after he promised new levels of U.S.-Chinese cooperation on a host of problems, most notably North Korea’s nuclear program.

Kerry is scheduled to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday and then return to the US later the same day.

The United States and China committed Saturday to a process aimed at ridding North Korea of its nuclear weapons, with the Obama administration gaining at least the rhetorical support of the only government that can exert significant influence over the reclusive North.

Specifically, Beijing agreed at least in principle to put more effort into denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.  Whether China follows through on that pledge is another matter, but the rhetorical support may have Pyongyang reconsidering its loose-cannon strategy of the last few months.

Still, if I was a betting man, I’d put some cash down on the prospect of a missile launch between now and tomorrow morning.  I don’t think Kim can afford to back down without some show of force at this point — assuming that Kim is running things at all.