The last time this conflict went beyond a slanging match was two and a half years ago on a small South Korean outpost just off the North Korean coast.

Its northerly location and rich fishing grounds make Yeonpyeong Island disputed territory. The fact there’s also a large army garrison based there put it in the crosshairs of the rogue state.

In a blatant daylight bombardment, the North Koreans fired almost 200 artillery shells and missiles at Yeonpyeong in November 2010. Damage was extensive and four poor souls were killed.

The South Koreans have preserved bombed out houses to remind themselves who they are dealing with.

Early on in this crisis, Kim Jong-un rallied his troops on a neighbouring North Korean island.

The ludicrous pictures of an adoring throng waving and wading through icy water as he pulled out of the harbour amused the world. How serious the situation seems just a few weeks later.

This region is now hostage to the unknowable intentions of an inexperienced despot. Kim comes across as a podgy man-child who is shooting his mouth off about nukes like he’s ready to use them.

On Yeonpyeong Island, they are listening intently.