It began in March when the Cheonan, a South Korean corvette, sank in waters disputed by the two Koreas, killing 46 sailors. An investigation conducted by the South Korean military ultimately concluded that the vessel had been brought down by a North Korean torpedo. That led to a summer of ratcheted-up tensions, with the U.S. and South Korea conducting naval exercises in the shadow of the Hermit Kingdom, in turn irking China, the North's sole benefactor. While Washington and Beijing hurled diplomatic barbs at each other, Pyongyang threw itself a party on Sept. 28 to mark the 65th anniversary of its ruling Communist Party, opening its doors for a split second to the foreign press while anointing the corpulent Kim Jong Un as successor to his ailing father Kim Jong Il. Then the rogue state went about doing what it does best and shelled a South Korean island on Nov. 23. Four South Koreans died, and the peninsula was swallowed up by geopolitical animosities all over again.