In carefully choreographed North Korea, timing is everything, and February is proving to be a strategic month for a North Korea provocation.
China and Japan have new, largely untested leaders still in the process of formulating their government policies. A provocation during the last days of Lee Myung-bak presidency in Seoul gives Pyongyang the chance at one last jab at the conservative leader while leaving open the possibility of a new relationship with incoming President Park.
And it's the start of Obama's second term; his new secretary of state, John Kerry, took office just weeks ago.
The latest nuclear test also serves Kim Jong Un's domestic purposes.
By showing his people he has the temerity to stand up to the bigger powers encircling the country, including China, the young leader is calculating that he will win support at home, even if it means costing the country much-needed trade and aid. He's also showing old timers at home who back his father's "military first" policy that he's tough on national defense.
He's also seeking to win the loyalty of the younger generation by characterizing the costly rockets and satellites as scientific advancements meant to build a better future.
Pyongyang is already warning that the nuclear test is just the start of a string of provocations if Washington doesn't change its policies.
"The U.S., though belatedly, should choose between the two options: To respect the DPRK's right to satellite launch and open a phase of detente and stability or to keep to its wrong road leading to the explosive situation by persistently pursuing its hostile policy toward the DPRK," state media quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying.
The risk, he said, could be "a do-or-die battle."