Security Forward-Risk and Intelligence Forum’s quarterly meeting was held at 85 Gresham Street in the City of London on 9 October 2017. Our first speaker was our Senior Advisor and Speaker in Residence, Lt Col. Crispin Black, whose presentation was entitled "North Korea - A Grown-Up's Guide To The Future". Crispin tried to ground Korean complexities in reality rather than the hyperventilating hyperbole of current media coverage. The situation is dangerous but some aspects of it have been overstated, such as the threat of North Korean entrenched artillery and rockets against the South Korean capital, Seoul, 35 miles from the border. Most North Korean 'tubes' in artillery jargon would struggle to reach further than the northern suburbs of Seoul, if that. 25% of North Korean ammunition is probably dud. Even deeply entrenched positions are vulnerable to USAF interdiction using conventional rather than nuclear explosives such as the MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Blast) bomb detonated in Afghanistan in April of this year - that particular munition destroys through overpressure rather than penetrative effect. Crispin drew some valuable lessons from the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
Crucially, there are signs that the Chinese government is beginning to understand that North Korea is also its problem and the days of tweaking the US lion's tail by proxy (however enjoyable) are over. China has made it clear publicly that if North Korea attacks the US or its allies, China won't intervene in response to any US retaliation (highly unlikely to be nuclear in any case - the US can flatten most of the DPRK with conventional explosives alone). This is a huge diplomatic development and makes sense in response to President Trump's policy on North Korea - the only thing he is interested in is removing the nuclear threat - nothing else. Finally, it's clear after 25 years of negotiation and prevarication that whoever was in the White House would have little choice but to try to bring this issue to a head or be prepared for the Continental United States to live under a constant threat of nuclear attack from a rogue regime - air raid drills in LA? Unthinkable.
Our second speaker was Andrew Donaldson, Deputy Head of Risk Analysis at Pool Reinsurance Company, who is responsible for the management of threat intelligence and the assessment of threat reporting and terrorism incidents. Andrew joined Pool Re after a distinguished career with the Police, where he spent most of his service in counter-terrorism, managing covert operations and investigations on national security issues. Due to his considerable experience managing Islamist extremist threats, Andrew was invited to support the FCO and was deployed to India. On returning from India, Andrew undertook various senior roles with the Ministry of Defence, including official duties in the USA representing UK interests at The Department of Homeland Security
Andrew gave a presentation entitled "Terrorism & Threat Mitigation" and all those present were given a copy of the Pool Re "Terrorism Threat And Mitigation Report, January - July 2017". As we operate under ‘The Chatham House Rule’, Andrew was able to go into great detail and share his impressive knowledge with the group who in turn were able to add their own experiences and observations. This was a rather good session and added considerable value to the meeting.
Our ‘Sharing Your Current In-Tray’ session highlighted key concerns and allowed participants to describe areas of interest for them. We adjourned for cocktails at The Members Dining Room, Guildhall, courtesy of Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli, Executive Chairman of Z/Yen. Our traditional cocktail aperitif was an Aperol Spritz, echoes of bitter bubbling from the Cuban Missile Crisis. We dined, enjoying the elegance and history of our venue, with a second dose of Crispin Black an encore, this time as our after dinner speaker on his thriller, "The Paris Trap: A Daniel Jacot Spy Mystery". Everybody present was given a copy of the book, after which the usual networking took place, as much added value is obtained from the connections and friendships made.
The next meeting will take place at HSBC on 11 January 2018; our Easter Meeting will take place on 22 March 2018 at The Fusiliers Museum at The Tower of London (NOT 28 March as given in some communications).