Saturday, December 18, 2010

Korean War 2.0

The two Koreas, North and South, are growling at each other, acting like two boys on a playground trying to egg each other into a fight. Who knows? They may succeed in triggering a second Korean War, or more technically, a resumption of the first war which ended with a cease-fire but no peace treaty.

At this point the North has been more belligerent with the sinking of a South Korean naval ship and the shelling by the North of an island that is part of the South. Now the South plans to hold military maneuvers on that island and the North threatens even bigger retaliation for this. See this article in the Telegraph (U.K.) for details.

If warfare breaks out anew on the Korean peninsula, one wonders if China will send troops to bolster the North as they did 60+ years ago? The U.S. has thousands of troops in South Korea, so presumably we would be a combatant. Unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, war in Korea would be more-or-less symmetrical warfare between big units with major weapon systems.

There is always the question of whether the North would "go nuclear" and if the U.S. would respond in kind. This could be a very messy, deadly regional war, albeit one unlikely to go global.

Here is a fascinating question. If the U.S. found its troops fighting those of China in Korea, do you suppose we would announce summary default on the entire total of U.S. debt owned by China? This would, in a heartbeat, wipe out most of the liquid assets of the PRC, roughly three-quarters of a trillion dollars.

It would also make U.S. bonds substantially less attractive in the world markets, particularly among nations who believe they might eventually find themselves in a similar belligerent status with us. Think particularly of Islamic countries in this regard.