A friend called me the other day and asked, "Did you know we are technically at war with North Korea?" He was getting at the cutting of the Red Cross hotline between North and South Korea, as well as the increasing threats Kim Jong Un has been making concluding with the live fire artillery exercise on the border. However, the US and North Korea have been at war since June 25, 1950 (the beginning of the Korean War). Wait, some readers may ask, didn't the war end in 1953? No, a cease fire was agreed to on July27, 1953 but this was not a peace accord, merely a cessation of fighting. The US and North Korea have been involved in the world's longest stand-off.
The Soviet Union (and now Russia), China and Iran all find it far more advantageous to keep North Korea as a threat to the United States. As long as North Korea can fire off ballistic missiles or look like it might attack South Korea, the United States can never take its attention completely off of the Korean Peninsula. This means the US can never fully focus its attention elsewhere (say Syria or Iran).
The posturing going on now is nothing new, typical relations heat up in the spring as the weather thaws on the peninsula leading to assumptions of hostilities beginning in the spring or early summer. The scenario has been predicted for decades. What makes this round a little more sinister is the US has never been at war for so long before. At the same time US forces are stressed, Iran and Syria remain problems that may require military action. Compounding the problem is a young leader in North Korea (Kim Jong Un) and the first female president in South Korea (Park Geun-hye). There is no case history to base how these two new leaders will handle conflicts on their border.
North Korea will see the US sequestration as a potential opportunity. The US military is facing reductions in forces and services due to sequestration. Ten years of the global war on terror have left US troop battered and tired. Aircraft and ships are being idled. Training dollars have been cut which adversely impacts readiness. If hostilities were ever to re-ignite, now seems an opportune time.