I have lost count of how many times this week I have heard or read analysts - and indeed government ministers - describe North Korea as "unpredictable". It is a cliche, it is simplistic and it is wrong.
Nearly two decades of covering the goings-on inside the 'hermit kingdom' - both outside and inside the country - has taught me that the Kim regime is dangerous, brutal and petulant but if anything, predictable.
North Korea has pursued a rogue nuclear weapons program, defying sanctions, and international condemnation. It has participated in and walked away from countless negotiations, engaging in a game of bait-and-switch that dates back decades.
Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions reach back to the 1960s, but accelerated in the '80s. It has conducted at least five nuclear tests, the most recent just last year, raising speculation - widely discounted - that North Korea has developed a hydrogen bomb, much more powerful than conventional atomic bombs.
According to various estimates, it has a stockpile of at least 10 and perhaps as many as 20 nuclear weapons. What it needs is the capacity to deliver them. It is working on that, developing missiles that could reach Australia or the continental United States.
None of that is unpredictable. It is calculated and it is aimed at one thing - regime survival.
Victor Cha, long-time North Korea watcher, American academic and author of The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future, once revealed that in nuclear negotiations with the United States and other parties in 2005, a Pyongyang envoy candidly said:
"The reason you attacked Afghanistan is because they don't have nukes. And look at what happened to Libya. That is why we will never give up ours."
This was a telling glimpse into the mind of a country that believes it is under siege.
Fractured US relationship shows no sign of healing
North Korea is ringed by American fire-power. There are as many as 30,000 US troops over the border in South Korea and just this week Washington has ordered its warships into the Korean coast.
North Korea and the US are still technically at war more than 60 years after the armistice. There has never been a peace treaty.
I recall visiting Pyongyang and witnessing the displays of military might, goose-stepping soldiers and row after row of weapons. They told me that they would fight to the last against America, bragging that their young leader, Kim Jong-un, would deliver them victory.
This isn't just paranoia and propaganda, North Korea already has the capacity right now to threaten South Korea and Japan.
Mr Cha has said the North could fire as many as 500,000 rounds of artillery on Seoul within the first hour of a conflict.
The consequences are unthinkable. Catastrophic loss of life and global economic markets would go into freefall.
Pyongyang is holding a nuclear armed gun to the world's head, but would it use it?
Kim Jong-un has threatened to turn Seoul into a 'sea of fire'. Is he insane?
He is certainly ruthless. Just this month he is widely suspected of having ordered the assassination of his half-brother, poisoned in a bizarre incident at an airport in Malaysia.
He has violently purged opponents, including his uncle allegedly shot and fed to the dogs.
Leonid Petrov is a Russian analyst who only recently returned from North Korea he says it is a regime that feeds on "fresh blood", a pathological need for purges and repression.
"They believe they are at war on a daily basis, they are convinced that war is imminent," Mr Petrov says.
Engagement could lead to catastrophe
Kim Jong-un has learned the lessons of his father, the late 'Dear Leader' Kim Jong-il, and his grandfather and founder of the country, Kim Il-sung. Survival is all.
While he threatens mayhem, a first strike would be truly mad and unpredictable.
Writing in the magazine Foreign Policy after the 2013 nuclear test, Victor Cha said authoritarian rules don't survive if they are truly out of touch with reality.
"If Kim moves beyond the political theatre of the past 60 years - chest-thumping, name-calling - actually risks a major military strike ... he is putting his own neck, as well as his country's, on the line," Mr Cha wrote.
Predictable - build a nuclear arsenal, successfully test weapons, develop missile technology, eliminate internal rivals, make threats. Push to the limit but don't cross the line.
Right now, Kim Jong-un may not be that hard to read.
But he has not faced an American leader like Donald Trump - a man former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans just this week described as the "most ill-informed, under-prepared, ethically challenged and psychologically ill-equipped President in US history".
Hyperbole aside, speaking to ABC's 7.30 Evans said his worst-case scenario is a US strike against North Korea.
Mr Trump has already warned he is prepared to go it alone if China - North Korea's only ally - can't reign in Kim Jong-un.
Unpredictable? Who is prepared to call Mr Trump's next move.
Again, the answer is entirely predictable.
* Stan Grant is an award-winning journalist and author. He has been a political correspondent for the ABC, and long-time foreign correspondent for CNN in Asia and the Middle East. He is now ABC's Indigenous Affairs editor and presenter of a new national Friday night current affairs program. He is currently presenting 7.30 summer edition.