On May 27th 2009, North Korea (DPRK) withdrew unilaterally from the armistice signed on July 27, 1953 with the United States of America. Formally, both countries are still at war, and with the truce now defunct, the armed conflict could resume any time soon.

All this follows a lot of saber rattling on the part of North Korea, including conducting illegal tests of ballistic missiles and even detonating two underground nuclear devices. This irresponsible conduct has been sharply condemned by the UN Security Council in a rare display of unanimity. Even China, DPRK’s closest ally and protector, joined the UNSC’s hard stance.

The real question is: what are the North Koreans up to? Do they really want to resume the Korea War? And why would they want to?

One possible thesis was that DPRK wants to sell its nuclear weapons and long-range missile technology to countries like Iran and Syria, and that they had to prove to their potential customers that their weapons are indeed effective. No simulated test would satisfy them and only real world explosions and missile tests could convince them that they are buying the Real Thing(tm).

While this is quite probable, I suspect another much more sinister reason: North Korea may again be facing yet another shortage of food, but this time, it can’t feed its 1,1 million Korean People’s Army, and the only way to keep that huge body occupied, is… by starting a war. Or at least inching very close to a war. There is nothing more effective at keeping troops politically quiet and loyal than the prospect of imminent war.

Maybe, the DPRK leadership is even planning to fight a limited conflict with its southern neighbor Korea, and with the US, hoping to lose approximately 1/10th of its forces. Decimating its own troops during periods of starvation happened in past conflicts all over the world. Intentionally decimating one’s own troops is a dark aspect of armed conflicts, as it is generally frowned upon. But it happened in the past, be it as a tool of discipline, or of necessity.

Perhaps, North Korea’s leadership is desperately begging us to decimate their troops, so that those won’t overthrow their regime?