If panic is a product of proximity, you can understand why Japan is extremely nervous about a surprise volley of North Korean ballistic missiles splashing down on Monday in nearby seas.
And you can understand why Australians, safely a long way distant, tend to regard the latest Pyongyang provocation as just another clownish outburst by a tinpot dictator.
It's time to shake off the complacency.
North Korea might have a record of technological failures matched only by the boastfulness of its propaganda triumphs, but it is abundantly clear the reclusive Stalinist state will soon - credibly - claim to be able to launch a nuclear weapon.
By some estimates, North Korea could construct a stockpile of as many as 20 atomic bombs in the next three years.
That's not to say that any of these weapons are going to be pointed this far south, but the complication in an already tense neighbourhood should make Australians sit up and pay close attention.
And the North Korean challenge, more than any other, is shaping as the first serious test of Donald Trump's Twitter-fired diplomacy after he took to social media in January to pledge the regime will never be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States.
North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won't happen!??? Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2017
Which begs the question; how exactly is Trump going to halt the Kim regime's nuclear obsession?
Nuke 'em? That might have just counted as black humour a few months ago, but in the Trump era, a desperate search for a rational option is needed before the President gets ideas.
It might seem to be a contradiction, but two steps are essential.
First, all countries - especially the US and China, but Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and other nations that might not ordinarily spring to mind - have to start taking the North Korea challenge seriously. Not just saying so, but actually devoting serious resources and sustained attention at the highest level to addressing the problem in an agreed and co-ordinated fashion.
Second, everyone needs to shut up about it. Publicly, at least.
The regime in North Korea feeds on Western criticism, determined to withstand "imperialist aggression". The more the criticism, the more the regime digs in.
This has long suited Beijing, as Pyongyang's patron, happy to have North Korea create a buffer state and regional distraction. But unpleasant as dealing with China can be, changing the incentives Beijing feels for propping up North Korea is essential.
This cannot involve selling out a supremely nervous South Korea, or any measure that will lead to cries of "appeasement", but recognising it is also China's own paranoia about encirclement that gives North Korea a lifeline.
Whatever happens, it cannot be business as usual. There is a false sense that the challenge of North Korea has been managed, between the absurdity of Kim Jong-un's antics (even the bizarre assassination of his half-brother in Malaysia) to the comforting explanations from experts as to why North Korea can't yet actually manage what it claims.
Japan says four long-range missiles fired by North Korea on Monday splashed down inside its exclusive economic zone, but analysts were quick to warn the precise capability of the missiles, including the range, is yet to be determined.
Even if the missiles did fly 1000 kilometres, that's still a long way short of the nearly 10,000 kilometres to the US.
The launch also coincides with joint exercises by the US and South Korean militaries, and North Korea has a habit of brandishing its own military wares as a way of sounding a warning. Pyongyang has even had a spat Beijing in recent times, while the US has reportedly conducted a secret cyber campaign of sabotage against North Korean missile launches.
All this leads to an assumption that perpetual crisis is the normal state of affairs.
Yet the evidence also points to North Korea's steady march to achieving the goal of tipping an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead.
There are enough reasons to worry about Donald Trump having his finger on the button. Just imagine the day when Kim Jong-un does too.