Wednesday, 13 June 2018

United Nations of Water for Thailand and UK?

Terrific news that the Songkhram River in the Isaan region of Thailand and a tributary of the Mekong is being considered for RAMSAR protected status as detailed in The Nation newspaper and NY Times on the Chaopraya:

RAMSAR being the natural and water equivalent of UNESCO Heritage Status developed from the Iran summit of 1971.
And here in East Kent, just down the road from Ramsgate's Royal Harbour and opposite the Julius Caesar landing site and just up the road from the White Cliffs of Dover, Pegwell Bay already has RAMSAR status.

A status often neglected in the past: runoff from Manston airport, cabling from the new Thanet Array windfarm, the disused Hoverport and the now-demolished Richboro power station undermining the wetlands considered Britain’s Camargue in the white horse county of Kent.

Even now the extraordinarily foolish blight of a disused wind turbine on land and the first National Grid mega-pylon at Broad Oak (with those oaks chopped down as in Sheffield, much as Thai tourists to Sevenoaks might be disappointed at those oaks reduced in storms) that could easily be buried underground.

The sort of blight of a green jewel that was all too frequent in the haze of the 1970's that still lingers over much of Kent planning.

Certainly Pegwell Bay needs renewed efforts and investment to preserve it - and the Songhkram River needs similar efforts to develop its RAMSAR status.

UK and Thailand working together with the UN?

### HSBC Water and Trump Davos ###

A still unspoilt tributary of the Mekong is hugely important in preserving flora and fauna - especially fish. It was reassuring to see HSBC Water of Thailand involved (the CSR water division of HSBC Bank), not just as a Trump Davos 15Friend, but I was involved in discussions on HSBC Water Vietnam in the Mekong Delta around My Tho which were very impressive.

Surin Village School Charity with the first Thailand school built for just $30,000 for c.50 children suggests a format for the 65M children still not in school (90% of the education UNMDG achieved). In outline terms, 1M extra village schools for those 65M kids at £30k would be $30BN.

Built over 3-5 years a cost of c.$6BN per year is hardly outrageous, with UK alone funding DFID’s $20BN aid budget for just 0.7% GNI. Even without USAid, AusAid or ADB, EBRD and AIIB funds.

POTUS Trump right to flag up Germany at the G7 Summit for freeriding on both the NATO 2% target (Berlin nearer 1.17% although who knows with bizarrely no specific NATO criteria) for European defence and the UN 0.7% aid target (Berlin nearer 0.3%) – along with other EU nations.

And those last 10% of schools in hard to reach places key if nothing else – leaving aside the splendours of education in itself – as minihubs for distribution of vaccines, condoms, spectacles such as James Chen’s Clearly, soap such as Lifebuoy, clothes (UK football shirts in the Global South seem the schoolwear of choice), shoes (or is it trainers), university MOOC’s and tampons. Even Amazon Kindles, Microsoft computers, and Raspberries and Blackberries or Huawei phones for healthier, educated and interconnected generations.

Children born today already expected to live to over 90 years old.

Smart brands such as Adidas TD15F or Samsung would no doubt be keen to get in on the ground level of such schools and a growing generation.

And Thailand is still under-performing in UNESCO World Heritage Sites the Doi Suthep or Fort Mahakan vandalism less than ideal. While East Kent has not just the White Cliffs of Dover UNESCO site but also Canterbury just a twenty minute drive away with not one but three UNESCO sites around Canterbury Cathedral.

Apart from Julius Caesar, St Augustine the founder of the Church of England actually has his trail beginning at Pegwell Bay, through to Canterbury and down to Rome presumably an offshoot too to the Camino de Santiago Way.
Apart from demolishing Richboro power station in my MP and Mayor manifesto I've also argued for the East Kent and Canterbury UNESCO sites to be interlinked.

As an aside on energy, also closing Dungeness nuclear power station faster, that near the famous movie director Derek Jarman garden. And with Kingsnorth power station, one of the largest in UK also now closed and demolished to meet EU emission targets and reduce those 40k UK deaths from air pollution each year, as UK closes its last coal mine and achieves record use of renewable solar and wind and wave energy.

UK's Thailand diplomat Dan Fieller highlighting just 6 coal power stations left in Thailand with one being built and one more on the Mekong in Laos, and heated debate over Krabi plans surely indicates ASEAN switching faster to solar. Margaret Tongue, UK Deputy Ambassador in Bangkok highlighting that Asian solar power is 38% hotter than Europe – Thailand, with battery storage reforms, as a nett exporter to say China and even India still-growing as the largest population in the world?

While further afield but not so far away across the Pacific, California’s mandate for 50% of electricity from renewables by 2030 (and reforms needed for 1.3GW of extra energy from its three largest utilities) beginning to be delivered by SCE, Southern California Edison, for its 15M customers. And AES installing a huge 100MW lithium-ion battery storage facility. Perhaps to rival Elon Musk’s Tesla work, and Australia batteries, with Panasonic.

### Mombasa to Myanmar and Manila to Fukuoka ###

On a recent conference visit to Kyaiktiyo Golden Rock in Myanmar and a spot of hiking it was astonishing to see the spread of mini-solar panels, about the size and weight of a pad of A4 paper, powering small houses with lights, fan, television and fridge plus wifi and mobile phones and motorbike batteries.

Without a surge in window glass solar panel tech in UK and Asia (and unbanked financial services?)UK could be being left behind - Philippines already launching 5G internet in 2019 and a much wider range of free wifi hotspots.

Those solar panels not so dissimilar to those exhibited by Chi Onwurah MP Shadow Business Minister in Parliament with Vodafone for African cities and UN Habitat slums - clearly the political will and technology and DFID budgets under the capable stewardship of former UK UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft are there to make it happen well before 2030.

Is it so outrageous to consider the Songkhram River RAMSAR and UNESCO status with the Mekong as a whole, and the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia - an ASEAN Blue Route? Even the Chaopraya and budding Riverfront Promenade in Bangkok: shades of the Victoria Embankment and Big Ben and Parliament that also has UNESCO status.

And an opportunity to refresh some of the klongs and canals and riverways at least from the rising tide of plastic waste. An issue facing Thailand in the Pacific Plastic Patches (ADB and navies adrift on cleanup?), a whale choked on 80 plastic bags and a Floating Island of Garbage off Hua Hin.

Those choked inland waterways affecting cities as HCMC and Manila and Jakarta too. As well as beach closures such as Boracay, and the DiCaprio movie site Maya Beach for a respite from overtourism.

In my Sincerity Advertising role, tourism brands such as both Philippines and Boracay for example often needing to diversify both markets and other destination sites such as Puerto Princeca or Zamboanga and Mindanao.

A vigorous Daily Mail newspaper campaign to clean two huge grotspots in the River Don near Doncaster and East London Lee Valley even then taking almost a month to gain momentum from the UK Environment Agency. No doubt even longer with Kent Environment Agency and concerns over EIR/FOI requests wrongly refused and ignored and pollution sites such as Medway river, cited by the Independent as one of UK’s worst top ten polluted rivers, and Thor mercury, Kent’s Minamata.

### Hungary for Water ###

President Duterte even taking time off from the Drugs War and Spratlys issues to supervise the restoration of Boracay. For if Build-Build-Build is the sustainable watchword in a growing Philippines economy then that has been well-balanced so far through Ceboom and the Jobs-Jobs-Jobs of a safeguarded and long-term resilient tourism economy.

While Ambassador Bogyay of the Hungary UN Mission has not just banged the drum for the Budapest World Swimming Championships last year that showcased the sparkling glamour of that city and Danube, but also the UN Water Summit in 2019.

The ACMECS Summit in Bangkok this week should be interlinked with the Water Summit next year.

Any of the above water projects would be ripe for the UN Volunteers and Red Cross organisations too? Surely those two organisations, and school and university students initially, need to have watertight ways of working together on Climate Change and Resilience issues?

The floods across MittelEurope recurring more frequently with avoidable deaths.

With the wipeout of UKIP in UK, and East Kent, the final MEP's leaving the European parliament next year, and this week with UK immigration figures sensibly adjusted not to include foreign students.

And with 97% of foreign students returning home after completing their degrees, surely East Kent with 4 universities and dozens of language schools, and UK universities more generally, should capitalise more fully on its Visegrad links.

With Kent twinned with Bacs-Kizkun in Hungary and Lake Balaton area near Slovenia, in the recent past surely it's time to wash away some of the dust and rust over Kent's Sister Cities and Regions too whether Hungary or Virginia on the eastern seaboard of USA.

The clean and unspoiled waters of Pegwell Bay and now Songkhram River might be ideal to do just that.

Time for Change

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Do cry for Argentina and IMF? Without UK?

Certainly a few tears must have been shed in the Casa Rosada with the IMF having to step in with a $50BN loan to prop up Argentina's banking system and currency.
Shades of UK in the 1970's and the 2008 Crash.

But especially galling for Argentina with it happening in the middle of the G20 Finance Ministers Summit and just a week before the G7 Summit in Canada.
And it reinforces the economist's joke that there are four types of economies: growing, falling, Japan and Argentina. Japan exceptionalism in weathering the storms of the financial markets, and Argentina unfortunately too often not.

Yet there is a glimmer of a silver lining to the peso woes, for surely the IMF and G20 action is a spur to greater trade with Argentina and Latin America in general.

UK's DIT dept this week confirming for the first time 25,000 UK companies exporting to ASEAN a positive amid the ongoing David Cameron former PM target of an increase of UK trade.

The dark days of the Falklands-Malvinas dispute are long behind us, new UK ambassador Mark Kent quietly building relationships with his counterpart in London, Carlos Sersale and galvanising the UK-Argentine public and private sector into action beyond just mining, fossil fuels and armaments that have long suppressed UK growth.

The astonishing coup too of British Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson kept on a firm leash to lay wreaths to the Argentine dead in Buenos Aires.
And that just a few months after sterling work with the Red Cross and CWG, the latter probably the best government department and already activating Kwai UNESCO status work, to search and recover war dead on the Falklands.

That apt for here in East Kent with the South Sandwich Islands named after the actual Sandwich, town and food and a trigger for the dark days of the 1982 conflict. While Margate featuring a Buenos Ayres (sic) street commemorating an earlier UK conflict in the nineteenth century. And Saga cruises, one of the largest cruise ship operators with dozens of cruises through the Caribbean and Americas.

And in my MP and Mayor campaign I've called for a resolution of the Falklands dispute: too long a dispute with Argentina as a modern democracy, much as with tax haven Gibraltar and Spain, a relic of an Imperial past long-gone, and a drain on the MOD.

The Mount Pleasant MOD runway surely as wasteful as St Helena's windswept disaster.

And if the Falklands had been a Scottish or Irish isle the population would long ago have been evacuated to the mainland - just 300 residents on West Falkland and only 1,800 in Port Stanley. Smaller than most East Kent villages.

### UK and Argentina growth ###

But let's leave aside the potential of dual citizenship and UN oversight of the islands with UK and Argentina eventually as a wilderness reserve, and even those Antarctic wildlife cruises. Although with the latest report that plastic has now swept into the Antarctic oceans, just about as far away as it's possible to get from humanity, then a cleanup is first overdue with the Atlantic and Pacific Plastic Patches.

And there is that glimmer of hope for expanded UK and Argentine activity: the hard currency of tourism not just to cover the IMF activity but strengthen the two economies with tourism.

Antarctic cruises aside for whale watching or penguin peregrinations, or shampoo bottle spotting, already Norwegian Air has begun extra flights to Buenos Aires (with a BA buyout too?). Already this year several newspaper features of that neglected gem in the tourism calendar. Even the possibilities of nature and horse riding tours. And Argentina featured in the Chris Tarrant railway show - of previous and future UK investment -but also this week with BBCTV Patagonia Earth's Paradise, with shades of similar primetime programmes in Thailand and Myanmar.

For with the Argentine-Chile rail link already underway with Siemens - no doubt fuelling the carriages of the new East Yorkshire factory and TrumpDavos15Friends (is that trademarked?) and HS3 activity - both Santiago and Buenos Aires will be fully linked via Rosario port.
And there is the opportunity for UK rail experience to link with Montevideo in Uruguay and up the Brazilian coast through the metropolises and tourist destinations of Sao Paulo and Rio - both already some of the largest cities in the world.

### BRICS and clicks ###

While if UK trade in the BRIC nations is faltering with Russian sanctions and China in general awaiting a boost from the Cameron-Xi development funds as part of that export target, then India and Brazil - and their megacities - are too large to fail for UK.

London Tube contracts already in hand for Buenos Aires for example, are a template for UK excellence in subways as in Crossrail, for megacities such as Sao Paulo. That Buenos Aires-London tube link surely low hanging fruit for UK and Argentina and IMF reassurance?

And Argentine brands such as TOMS Shoes represent an innovation in trade: designed in California and made in Argentina with the ethos of buy a pair of shoes and one is donated in say Malawi etc. An astonishingly innovative brand. While UK reach in the fashion world from catwalk to Camden market and the Commonwealth surely a key opportunity.

Prince Wills speaking eloquently as patron of the Liverpool Business Festival opening this week with an emphasis on expanding UK SME exports beyond the current 30% of businesses, and that usual over-reliance of Rolls Royce and BAE.

Prince Wills though best-placed as a former air ambulance pilot to highlight the Commonwealth as the mother of all networks - and speak eloquently on those island states in need of better Resilience in air sea rescue, and city/rural air ambulance, helicopters and national airline fleet upgrades and sustainability.

### Rolls Royce trade ###

And relevant of Rolls Royce engines 4,000 back office job losses to focus on 18,000 engineers and £1BN cash flow by 2020. As a Rolls Royce teaboy I know the value of working on Concorde and airline and motor engines with my dad. The Rolls Royce reshape under the quietly capable CEO Howard East to Defence, Power and Civil Aerospace, a slight misstep in not consolidating the Marine business in ship drone tech etc?

Prince Wills surely cleaning his helmet visor to scope out a better future for HUD and AR. And his wife no stranger to the importance of family online businesses whether fashion or party gizmos. All crucial for a 21st Century Digital Britain whether the High Street or 17% of online sales.

While the purring of the Midlands Engine would be louder with a focus on Jaguar for cities and Landrover out of town. Even the new Landrover Defender project across the pampas. Ambassador Woody of USA in London effortlessly slipping UK-USA trade out of first gear and into cruise control with a visit to the Jaguar Landrover factory, and first glimpse of the new Landrover Defender massive project by UK's richest man Jim Cathcart.

I fondly remember as a child riding in a Landrover Defender to Rolls Royce Derby and Birmingham with engine moulds for Concorde.

Only Britain could stall such an iconic motor brand as Defender - imagine if USA failed to grow Jeep or Ford? While the Fort Worth F35 Texas factory and its 3,200 workers must be thinking of Boeing HQ in Sheffield, and Airbus in Toulouse cargo planes ands helicopters -the good folks of Texas and the Cajun Navy still not superdry after the floods?

### Space for UK and USA growth with Latin America too ###

The space telescope in the Atacama surely an opportunity to interlink the UK Space Agency and European Space Agency launch site in Cayenne and NASA. Surrey Space satellites across the Kent border expanding in both meteorological data (the Atlantic and Pacific Patches again and Resilience storm and volcano warnings) and space junk cleanup.

Immarsat technology for example ideal.

The opportunity too for Argentina and UK scientists and universities to work closely together on the new Seabed Mapping Project - Mars more familiar than the seabed -much as Kent's Charles Darwin began with the Latin American coast.

And the Magellan anniversaries from 2019 onwards an opportunity to further market Argentina, with Spain and Portugal, beyond just Buenos Aires. The Straits of Magellan and Falklands of increasingly less strategic influence with the importance of the Panama Canal for UK trade and links through the Caribbean, California and Pacific.

And brands such as Lincoln & York with its 50k square foot Lincolnshire warehouse sourcing, roasting and packing 8,000 tons of coffee a year. And with the UK's largest coffee roaster with CEO James Sweeting in use with the pre-1994 days before Starbucks entered the UK coffee market. hence featuring as Sunday Times International SME exports leader with 265% profits increase. Poland a focus now in its 40 overseas market revenue increase from 20% to 50%, but a template for UK's wider coffee strategic importance.

UK's coffee and cake and pizza king Luke Johnson - Channel Four, USA's Border books, Silicon Roundabout et al - eloquently detailing the issues around UK and USA incubators and universities and his Centre for Entrepreneurs hub and thinktank. 2% rollout so awful from a standing start for UK? East Kent's CCU University crunchy on its business work ahead of T-levels vocational exams - despite its stalled Broadstairs campus silliness.

Vietnam's quietly capable PresidentTran Dai Quang celebrating UK efforts in Vietnam but calling for specific and pragmatic projects, no doubt wider Vinh seaport activity.

Argentina could have greater prominence in UK trade in the Southern Cone and the issue of cocaine as with Colombia now joining NATO security and this week's EU drug monitoring report citing UK as the cocaine capital of Europe with 4% of under 35's trying cocaine in the last year - double the EU average of 1.9% and with only Spain and Eire and Holland coming close on 2.5%.

UK trade requiring greater impetus beyond 70% pure coca in Peru and Bolivia and Paraguay in its wider Latin America trade growth.

But, with East Kent's James Bond, and Kent's Rolling Stones featuring heavily in Argentine appreciation, broader efforts are possible with the Creative Industries - not just say UK and Argentine film shoots in each other's nations or advertising and fashion.

### Sports Diplomacy ###

Sports Diplomacy for example underway with rugby Pumas and polo (Prince Wills probably more keen on beach polo and crazy golf. Perhaps not.) and football.
Spanish for gringos also hampered with a lack of Argentina TV channels in UK and language learning - surely a freetoair swap with BBCTV the work of moments and a UK trade template?

Deloitte, also a TrumpDavos15Friend (it must be trademarked?), announcing the UK Premier League worth £23BN which seems light to me especially with Amazon announcing one tranche of the £3BN broadcast rights. And BT ousting CEO Gavin Patterson for failing to maximise both the BT Sports rights and 5G (that UK Digital Future again), and the Premier League announcing a 10 day winter break, the ground is ready for increased sports eg Argentine Primera leagues and Ossie Ardiles.

Jeremy Corbyn hardly likely to urge less momentum on his Arsenal team leading UK efforts on Football Diplomacy. Another massive UK export opportunity.

Even extra channels of USA sports as NFL and baseball expand in to London next year. While the Channel Four HQ bid, formerly the champion of niche or neglected sports, viable for Liverpool and proximity to BBC Media City in Salford but also niche bids by Brighton and Kent.

Food a key factor facing Argentina and Uruguay in future - the Fray Bentos corned beef UNESCO heritage site in Uruguay an indicator of the rise of healthy eating, WHO citing red meat as cancer-forming, and an issue for the wheat and meat stock of Argentina as much as Thailand's Senator Tammy Duckworth Illinois caucus and Colorado colleagues whether they like Coors or not.

KFC already developing a non-meat menu and less-fried versions which is no easy task for a Kentucky fried chicken expert from out of heartland USA to main street worldwide. Easy with Sonny Perdue and USDA USA farm exports stocking up the barn ready for a DHL delivery.
A factor no doubt in expanding Argentine red and white wine sales even the grapes in themselves to UK supermarkets. Certainly less appetite in East Kent for New Zealand lamb and wine after the Manston-Infratil crimes. A booming UK retail sector with the Tesco purchase of Booker wholesalers and possible mega-merger of Sainsburys and Asda-Walmart.

Only UK as a nation of shopkeepers could fumble its retail offering (that digital retail trade again too) in Argentina and Latin America's malls?

Amanda Murphy of HSBC (TD15F trademark pending) citing in their Navigator report cycling clothing manufacturer Rapha with its outrageously superb £48M exports 71% of sales - no doubt slipstreaming key UK events such as Tour de Canterbury and Tour de Yorkshire through Tour de France and Spanish la Vuelta - Tour de Patagonia next for UK and Argentine growth?

Time for Change

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Laos and UK and USA: Operation Momentum stalled?

Operation Momentum of course the US war in Laos from 1961 rather than Labour's path to taking over UK soon.

The Laos war the subject of an excellent book by Joshua Kurlantzick of the Council on Foreign Relations: "A great place to have a war, America in Laos and the birth of a military CIA".

As an aside surely UK could do with more thinktanks on Asia as it grows in importance such as CFR - USA active with EastWest Center, Asia Society and Milken Institute, Marshall Center, Brunnings and so on that provide a degree of impartiality beyond just the military and foreign office.

UK only really has Asia House and Chatham House.

The Kurlantzick book though is interesting in that it combines in one place much of the available literature and research on Laos. If Laos was little known in the 1950's - although both Eisenhower and Kennedy spent more time on foreign policy there than Berlin or Cuba as the wider Vietnam war began to spiral out of control -then it's still little known now, if not even less so.

The fall of Vientiane in 1975 leading to decades of isolation.

Interestingly Kurlantzick also wrote a previous book on Jim Thompson formerly OSS in WW2 Asia and one of the promoters of Thai and Isaan region silk - that surely a massive opportunity for UK and Thai trade, and differentiating the Lao and Khmer silk brands, in the future.

A tourism add-on for Laos from Thailand and Isaan surely a simple growth strategy.

American hitech war in Laos resulting in massive civilian casualties rather than troop deaths. Laos for example seeing B52 bombers diverted from bombing Hanoi by bad weather jettisoning their bombs in Laos to avoid landing with live weapons. Or with the free-fire zones of bombing civilian targets.

Journalist Nick Turse also writing an excellent revisionist history of the American war in Vietnam phrasing atrocities and civilian deaths as essentially a My Lai massacre every month rather than rarities. A toxic mix of racism and techwar overkill and the reaction to guerilla war.

Plus ca change with Afghanistan and Syria now, and recently Iraq after Saddam. And who would have expected post-conflict both Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan to fall over so rapidly with ISIS and the Taliban, or Sadr to emerge as Iraq PM. The dangers of propping up dictatorships and then removing them.

The Indochinese dominoes falling until held in Thailand just over the Mekong – President Eisenhower’s fears of dominoes toppling across Asia to India not so incorrect.

The Laotian drug trade also expanded out of the jungle of the Golden Triangle and connected by CIA supply flights such as Air America and CAT to the main towns of Asia, then USA and Europe.

An expended drugs trade a byproduct of the Asian wars that still infects UK and USA streets.

HCMC citing the US Declaration of Independence in his Vietnam independence speech an indication of how things could have been very different with the Asian conflicts framed in nationalism and poverty rather than Marist-Leninism or the chimera of a grand Communist conspiracy.

POW-MIA searches that much faster with UK and USA cooperation with Laos - the lie long buried that there were dozens and hundreds of US prisoners held in Vietnam. Rather MIA referring for example not to a Bamboo Colditz of prisoners desperate to escape, but for example to US fighter jets exploding over the jungle or sea or troop formations bombed leaving no trace of the servicemen.

Much as UK in WW1 and the Unknown Soldier represents those lost without trace.

Medical advances in prosthetic limbs pioneered by the British Legion along with medical support from Operation Smile or Moorfields Eye hospital, beyond bling-bling privatisation of the NHS out of sight in Dubai, in cataracts and the scars of war from napalm and shells must surely be a route forward for UK in Laos.
A population of just 5M and the UK embassy only reopened, after the fall of the capital to the Communist Pathet Lao in 1975, in 2016. Interestingly despite the carnage of the USA war in Laos the US embassy there never closed. Laos and Vietnam always warmly welcoming US visitors.

And carnage it was though: 20,000 Laotians losing their lives to landmines after the war ended. While during the war itself 200,000 died, some 10% of the population and 25% became refugees.

Along the 500 square mile (about the size of UK) plateau of the Plain of Jars that sits above the capital Vientiane and Mekong river, and before the massive almost impenetrable Laotian Highlands, only some 9,000 people were left out of 150,000 killed or driven away by war.

I write this with a pencil holder on my desk in the shape of the burial jars, a souvenir from a recent visit, that give the Plain of Jars its name. If they are burial jars as nobody knows for sure. A visit interesting in seeing the thousands of landmines that remain, and cluster bomblets and air force bomb casings scattered across the plain and villages. The strategic significance of the area still strong with a Lao air force base in the distance and training flights with the Singaporean air force if ASEAN relations falter.

Those cluster bombs and MAG landmine surveys apt last week with the 10 year anniversary of cluster bombs being banned. A concern with UK-manufactured bomblets turning up in Yemen and the Saudi air force inventory (more UK jets in the Saudi airforce than the RAF) with the Sangcom mega-arms deals.

A Plain of Jars university research project - and university ASEAN languages and more prosaic language schools' short-term and Summer courses overdue in UK and perhaps USA too?

The English language and education a massive opportunity given the recent university league table with all the top ten universities being from UK and USA, and English the official second language for all 10 (11 with East Timor) ASEAN nations.

My predecessor as Thanet South MP candidate (or was it South Thanet - the constituency boundaries being jerrymandered and changed more often than the required ten year census), Jonathan Aitken jailed over the Al-Yamamah Saudi-UK mega-arms deal.

The Kurlantizick book doesn't quite detail his understanding of the Laos war as marking the beginning of the CIA as a paramilitary war-fighting organisation rather than just an intelligence agency. The Bay of Pigs invasion for example was a large-scale military invasion of Cuba, and the overthrow of the Iranian and Guatemalan regimes also significant.

But interesting in reporting the CIA budget in 2012 was $14BN, almost exactly the same as the whole State Department budget, although dwarfed by the new Pentagon $700BN budget.

By the end of the French attempt to reassert control of its Vietnam colony over 75% of the French military budget was funded by USA. The USAF even considering the possibility of using American nuclear weapons on several occasions in both Korea and Vietnam and Laos.

That a strange result in propping up the French Empire given the FDR aim from the 1941 Charter to restrain Churchill and UK Empire by freeing all the colonies after an Allied victory. UK with Operation Masterdom in Autumn 1945 in Saigon creating a pivotal moment in beginning the Vietnam conflict even using surrendered Japanese troops to attack the Viet Minh and allow French colonists to take back control.

Interestingly with the only Thai military report (Prawatiikkanrop khong thahan thai nay songkhram wiet nam) on the campaign that saw several thousand Thai troops and mercenaries and contractors (early shades of Blackwater in Iraq?) deployed for a decade or more as in Korea previously, and in Vietnam. A neglected part of Asian history with the Vichy France wars.

While with POTUS Obama visiting Laos the cold war is well and truly over and surely the Hmong in USA universities in California and MidWest a stronger bridge with Laos National University and UK universities, even the Cambodian community in USA too.

That apt not just with the top ten best universities in the world being just from UK and USA And those nations with the most universities in the top 100 such as Newcastle and its Kasetsart links - but even Silicon Valley California, and Silicon Fen in Cambridge and Silicon Roundabout in London.

Surely there is a massive opportunity to plug in UK, USA and Asian companies (Japan and ASEAN?) for coordination on AI and Robotics and Auto parts for driverless cars etc.

Agritech upgrades and finance also: rice plows and soil sensors and DNA CRISPRCas9 biotech for increased yields for 11BN hungry mouths.

Lao television and music and dance long neglected in UK too - Channel Four?

European support a contrast to previous years, even the French reoccupation of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos after the Japan defeat in 1945 - despite FDR's concerns, the active participation of the UK military in Operation Masterdom funded until the defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 by USA.

The Laos war something new though in extending from 1961 until 1974 - and largely kept secret from Congress and the US public. Some 745 US troops and contractors died in Laos - a fraction of the 54,000 dead in Vietnam - but with a massive USAF bombing campaign hidden from the public.

The New York Times only in 1969 reporting on the Laos war as what it termed a twilight war.

And more US deaths in Laos than in Cambodia and four students shot dead at Kent State. The Cambodia secret bombings there by Nixon resulting in massive antiwar protests in USA.

Just one year for example, 1969, saw more bombs fall on Laos than on Japan during all of WW2.

While North Vietnamese troop movements down the Ho Chi Minh Trail of the Laotian panhandle and the highlands of Vietnam (as with the Hmong in Laos Vietnamese Montagnards recruited into a proxy army) saw the use of Agent Orange chemicals to defoliate trees - and also on the ricefields with famine used as a weapon of war.

Shades of South Sudan or Central African Republic or Niger and Chad now, and Eritrea and Somalia recently.

An effect not just of deformities and deaths amongst the Lao and Vietnamese populations but also US troops - Da Nang region in particular still being cleaned up from the toxins. On my first visit over 20 years ago I remember row upon row of bell jars of outrageously deformed foetuses in various Vietnam museums.

The coordination of the CIA and military extending into Allende's Chile and especially Central America in the 1980's and Afghanistan during the Russian invasion of the 1980's.

While Kurlantzick's view of secret forever wars is borne out now in Syria and Afghanistan - B52 bombers again -and Central Africa: Niger and special forces deaths.

While the bombing of Laos from the Udon airbase in northern Thailand has something of a continuation on the Cats Eye torture scandal of the black prisons on the airbase (Lithuania and Romania now cited as black prison sites too) and Gina Haspel role appointed as CIA Chief last month.

And ongoing Obama weekly assassination campaigns by drones, and with RAF participation through the Nevada and Lincoln airforce bases as well as RAF planes in Syria cause for concern and greater scrutiny.

Senator John McCain no stranger to the SE Asian wars and torture from parachuting into Truc Bac lake in 1967 and 6 years of prison and torture in the Hanoi Hilton.

The lack of oversight without a War Powers Act raised by Virginia's Senator Tim Kaine, as with Jeremy Corbyn in UK, in North Korea but also Afghanistan and Sahel and Yemen and Syria is the need for a War Powers Act to tighten up on when and how war is waged by USA or UK.

That all the more important with UN bans, not just on napalm and cluster bombs from the Laos war, and landmines, but now nuclear weapons as well as increasing small arms controls. Surely EU/NATO arms exports bans as cited by the German Foreign Ministry likely soon.

Few generals or majors or sergeants in deploying nuclear weapons would want to face the possibility of My Lai war crimes trials of Calley et al.
While a vigorous Daily Mirror campaign details the 1950's nuclear bomb tests on RAF pilots as essentially guinea pigs for the effects of radiation. As with Agent Orange various birth deformities and gene defects way beyond the averages, and not so different from Gulf War Syndrome of various anthrax vaccines, or larium and malaria etc.

I can vouch from my India visits on the effects of larium being worse than malaria.

Certainly Europe's southern frontier now extending to an Arab Spring in the Sahel south of the sand sea of the Sahara and the real sea of the Mediterranean. The first tentative elections in Libya perhaps the beginning of the end of the civil war and refugee drownings there - an astonishing failure for NATO's navies and again lack of oversight of UK and US special forces.

While the broken nations of Chad - the first UK embassy opening last month - and Niger and Sudan and South Sudan and Somalia and Ertirea are struggling through an imperfect peace to prosperity.

While Central African Republic and DRC Congo and possibly next Cameroon slipping back into conflict and even more famine.

Famine an astonishing failure in the 21st century of cargo planes (the RAF Chinook Display Team showcasing the helicopters over Central London last week and Red Arrows trainers) and supermarkets and crop surpluses and food waste and mobile phones. Horrifyingly Laos and Cambodia still with 40% malnutrition over 40 years after the Vietnam Wars.

And surely UK in Laos has significant potential with a revival of DFID (the previous $20M budget a drop in the ocean of DFID's $20BN) and working with USAid and the alphabet soup of UNDP and UNFAO and UNICEF and so on.

MAG and EU Halo Trust expertise overdue being deployed in the Devil's Gardens of landmines across North Africa from WW2. If Cambodia is to be landmine-free by 2025 then surely the same is possible for Egypt and Libya and Tunisia along with development of the Mediterranean Partnership for EU membership with Algeria and Morocco - the 2026 World Cup a further spur. And the Levant nations of Palestine, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon. Eventually Syria one day.

Lao Tourism: animal welfare, water rafting and jungle trekking on the map for TUI and Thomas Cook and Saga cruises.

The US Embassy active in temple restorations: a $100,000 donation for the Canterbury Cathedral of Luang Prabang attracting massive goodwill in Laos for USA.
While road improvements through to Dien Bien Phu and hiking spots in northern Vietnam another cheap and easy improvement for UK and EEC in ASEAN - and certainly of far more use than the rather bizarre Chinese railway plan through Laos to Thailand.

Laos with some of the most isolated and mountainous jungles and rivers in the world. Imagine trying to build the M1 motorway through the highlands of Scotland. And to connect nothing with nothing as East Kent's TS Eliot might say.

While Laos as the battery of SouthEast Asia in its Scottish-style hydropower, could involve the damming of the upper reaches of the Mekong in Laos and China that would affect Thailand and Cambodia downstream. Harbingers of the water wars of China and India too.

And dynamiting of the Mekong rocks for passage of ships from the South China Sea again seems a dangerous boondoggle connecting nothing with nothing at great expense and effort and environmental damage.

With the UK embassy clicking the Chevening scholarships into place and British Council language schools accreditation the opportunity must be for UK to climb the sunlit uplands of Laos and fast forward trade activity.

Whether that's the marketing of Lao silk and rice, or food commodities in general (a more positive effort for United Fruit rather than endless and fruitless prosecutions of Andy Hall and FinnWatch?), or town planning and telecoms and digital work for further UK momentum given the now-minimal French influence, except in the stunning and neglected legacy of colonial architecture.

The customs houses of Bangkok and Yangon riverfronts or HCMC Basson not safely preserved yet either and in danger of suffering the philistine fate of Fort Mahakan or even Sheffield’s trees.

While rather than the Chines rail boondoggle, a more laser-like approach with Mabey bridges for rural development along the Mekong and Laotian highlands would ensure more connectivity. As would the Lao Friendship Bridge pencilled in for Baeng Khaeng to link Vientiane by rail with Vinh deep sea port in Vietnam. Again a fairly precise and easy route in following the existing road through Laos.

Vinh expansion for trade vital for central Vietnam's growth and a resilient adjunct to Haiphong as well as Da Nang (again) and Cam Ranh Bay (possibly again) through the typhoon seasons.

While southern Laos connected to the Ubon Ratchathani railhead in eastern Thailand and down through Pakxe and Thousand Island resorts to Phnom Penh would open up eastern Cambodia too, and even Phu Quoc's temples, another Angkor Wat in southern Vietnam.

LIDAR ground radar and 3D modelling and AR tourism applications relevant at such UNESCO sites and on ASEAN’s radar as well as the May-Prayut summit ahead of the February 2019 elections (in Thailand rather than UK – those likely in the Autumn as the Brexit silliness crumbles).

But with debate on Operation Momentum from the Kurlintzky book, surely Laos can reset its relations with UK and the West in general from the destruction of 1961 onwards for a brighter ASEAN future in the 21st century.

Time for Change

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Trump and Prayut with May in June

With PM Prayut of Thailand meeting PM May on 20th June just a week after POTUS Trump's visit to UK surely there are some key issues that could get lost in translation in UK.

Not just UK in its traditional role as a safe haven for ASEAN politicians of any shirt colour from South Vietnam to former PM Yingluck now with a 10 year UK visa for 6 months residency.

But also the Watermelon Politics of East Kent - green on the outside and red on the inside - gain momentum as Kent conservatism veers into stagnation:

* UK new ivory and wildlife polices - and impact on Thailand tourism (UK's 1M visitors the largest non-Asian group) whether Surin elephants or buffalo and tigers
* Expanding Thai and UK tourism: each c.35M visitors and Thai tourists 3rd highest UK spenders after Gulf tourists
* Isaan silk - too long a stranger to fashionistas and UK high st even with the sterling efforts of Jim Thompson - Victoria Beckham with David Beckham football and fashion ambassador and Ramsgate’s Vivienne Westwood and Tracey Emin leading?
* Thailand PM Trade Envoy gap
* UK and Thai rail support: the rail link to Phnom Penh open by Xmas and then HCMC - expansion of Newcastle University's rail and STEM engineering links with Kasetsart University
* ASEAN colonial era architecture preservation eg BKK customs house, HCMC Basson, PP French buildings, Margate and Thailand 1619
* Arts: beyond archives and warehouse storage – the revamped BKK Cultural Centre?
* Thai Hispeed rail given the success of Kent HS1 (HiSpeed1): double track and links throughout Thailand - and stalled Malay-Singapore route and HS2/HS3
* Trump Davos 15 Friends: EU companies eg Siemens, Krupp, ABB etc
* Bridge on the River Kwai: UNESCO heritage site plans (and other Thai Sites) and upgraded new rail through to Myanamr
* Airbase Heroin: expansion of heroin and crystal meth laboratories in Myanmar into Thailand and Bangladesh: 10% of heroin on UK streets from Shan - the rest from Helmand
* Kent Police International Division: UK tourists and expats assistance - ASEAN 112 and UK Tourist Police contact numbers - Koh Tao deaths/links
* Deep South terrorism and UK-Northern Ireland and Commonwealth Malaysia learnings
* Commonwealth Canopy: Johnny Appleseed expansion for trees - 10 trees per person per year?
* Thailand-UK seed bank: Kew Gardens and Norway
* EU fishing rules and Liverpool's Thai John West support
* Resilience: Royal Navy and Chinooks cargo helicopters in monsoon
* Interpol Reed Notice after Bill Browder Red Notice in Spain - Red Bull copkiller
* Thailand banks and City and UK eg SCB given Metro first new bank in UK since 1840
* East Kent Discovery Park 5k lost jobs: STEM vaccines: TB, Flu etc - Rabies and Measles: Pfizer UK and Thailand
* ASEAN Malaria: nets production
* UK Space Agency: satellites and parts
* UK auto industry: spare parts/EV, Zafira fires regear early warnings - and OBOR
* EK Buddhist temple and Canterbury Cathedral UNESCO: Thai sites
* UK death penalty and Caribbean: Thai learnings
* EU GI: Geographical Indication products: Kampot KH pepper, Lao and Khmer silk, Thai chillies
* Thai agriproducts - pineapple, OTOP, Kitchen of the World: 15k Thai restaurants in UK a nd largest Thai supermarket in Cardiff
* UK top ten/hundred universities and Thai links - 8k students to 20k as Malaysian UK students and 2 campuses
* ASEAN Studies Depts and 130 UK universities - languages
* UK-Thai trade: still down 30% from SSI Redcar steel closure - Nissan Newcastle and Hitachi Kent UK and Thailand
* UK bus contracts: Malay contract buses held at BKK port?
* Road Safety: Thailand worst in world after Libya and UK best: 30k deaths vs. 2k
* Team Thailand Europe and UK cooperation beyond Brexit
* Thai support: UK wifi and 5G eg True/AIS
* UK-Thai Sports Diplomacy: UK football, Asian Games. Olympics and World Cup 2030's
* UK-Thai museum links eg Royal Road to Angkor and LIDAR ground-radar temple surveys
* MAG/HALO and Royal Engineers: landmines clearance - Cambodia and Laos borders
* UK-Thai media links: television channels and Open University and MOOC languages
* Plastic cleanup: Mekong and Pacific and Atlantic plastic patches - navies
* Mabey bridges: rural development- Charter Referendum Isan, North and Deep South, Resilience and Commonwealth
* Wellington airport: Manston and Infratil (NZ/Australia) crimes
* UN Peacekeeping: UK/Thailand/Eire military and trade coordination eg Sahel and Papua
* East Timor ASEAN membership and EU links with Portugal
* Tampons and condoms - eg Markle charities/Condoms and Cabbages and manufacturing
* Pandemic alerts: ASEAN and UK eg Bird Flu, airports, hospitals links

Time for Change

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Trump for Nobel Peace Prize?

Yes. Why not?

A quite extraordinary series of foreign policy triumphs by POTUS Trump especially on North Korea.

Even with the last-minute nerves of the Singapore Summit off then on again, in just over 6 months we’ve had more movement on North Korea because of POTUS Trump than in the previous 6 decades.

From the pre-Xmas insults of Little Rocket Man and Dotard and missiles aimed at Japan and Guam and Hawaii we have the biggest breakthrough on the Korean peninsula since Inchon.

A united Korea sports team at the Winter Olympics and Kim JongUn's sister's rare travel to South Korea.

The North Korea and South Korea presidents meeting at Panmunjon DMZ and each travelling over the DMZ line.

A peace treaty to end the war of 1953 being drafted – UK too as a participant in the 1953 war with countries such as Thailand and even Cuba on the allied side for the first UN police action.

South Korean propaganda loudspeakers aimed at North Korea turned off.

Discussions on a rail link and air bridge between Seoul and Pyongyang.

Consideration of USA troop withdrawals.

Ending nuclear tests, albeit with the test site already damaged, and now blown up in front of the world’s media.

President Xi of China's support for detente. Missiles and leaky nuclear plants just a few miles from Shanghai or Beijing must be something of a concern. And a dampener on OBOR extension through Korea and across to EU and even Vancouver and California over the Bering Strait.

The Singapore Summit surely laying the groundwork for a wider EU-style East Asian Group for peace and prosperity: China, Mongolia, Koreas, Japan and even Russia and Taiwan. The latter as with Hong Kong and Macau likely to reunite as the political and economic systems dovetail between the mainland and inner islands.

Even settlement of the post 1945 Cold War deep freeze of the Kuriles and Sendaku. And Paracels and Spratlys that annoy Chinas ASEAN neighbours for little purpose.

While 38,000 American troops likely to be largely withdrawn to Okinawa and Japan or a Pivot South to Australia and even mainland USA as the Koreas reunite.
North Korean clocks adjusted half an hour to synchronise with South Korea - a tweak well known here in East Kent with Ramsgate 5 minutes 41 seconds ahead of London before GMT unified Britain’s timezones.

New State Dept head Mike Pompeo returning from North Korea with 3 released American prisoners.

Any one of the above would be extraordinary for Korean relations but all of them surely worth the peace prize for POTUS Trump and a successful Singapore Summit.

All of them earth-shattering and even a crescendo of a Glastonbury music festival at the DMZ. Landmines aside one of the world’s largest nature reserves due to the frozen conflict.

While the desolate border along the Yalu dividing China and North Korea - as with Myanmar and Bangladesh crying out for development and connectivity for OBOR. Even a Japan-Korea undersea tunnel as here in East Kent with the Channel Tunnel and HS1 hispeed rail?

And it may be a little early for the first Trump Tower plans for downtown Pyongyang although certainly needed with extra trade and tourism. Even a Checkpoint Donald through the DMZ as with the Checkpoint Charlie of Berlin and eventual German reunification?

Presumably various Trump Davos 15Friends will be spearheading investment lead by Nestle and its vitamins and food supplements and baby milk powder and bottled water. Kim JongUn probably not averse to Nestle’s KitKat chocolate from his Swiss boarding school days.

North Korea’s troops probably also keen to have a break from sitting in their trenches and instead being redeployed in work battalions to bring in the harvest, or at least unload those Nestle trucks or USAid and DFID and JICA and AusAid trucks and ships. Volvo opening a new car and lorry factory around Pyongyang?

While Nokia and SAP and ABB and Siemens would be crucial in ripping and replacing the 1950’s telecoms and transport infrastructure. Sheffield’s Boeing HQ keen to replace every plane in the AirKoryo fleet, still banned from EU. Even airlift and SAR helicopters for the more mountainous regions of North Korea.

And Statoil (sorry, Equinor) and Total active on solar and wind power to help light up North Korea’s towns and cities.

A Nobel Peace Prize almost guaranteed as an astonishing Nixon in China moment. And surely DRC Congo and Libya and Syria next?

But against the backdrop of the North Korean successes already by POTUS Trump is UK missing the bus in terms of trade with both North and South Korea?

USA doesn’t even have an ambassador yet in South Korea yet is wiping the floor with UK in terms of trade already with South Korea one of the world’s most advanced digital nations literally emerging from the rubble of the total devastation of the 1945 and 1953 wars.

Why doesn’t UK have 5G hispeed fibre broadband already? Even free wifi from BT given it’s already in place now. Finland now specifying internet access as a right – crucial for any 21st century economy.

And Estonia forging ahead with world-leading e-governance. Why isn’t UK issuing free emails and phone numbers for government information on Pandemics given it’s the number one UK strategic threat? Yet more ebola outbreaks in Congo even without a flu or bird flu outbreak or TB increase.

And the biochem threat of polonium or novichuk - the latter chemsite in Russia now demolished as North Korea's nukes site.

Even free Raspberry Pi and Kindles and 3D printers in schools and universities: just 11M under 16’s and 2M university students will hardly break the Bank of England in regearing the nation as a digital nation. With or without the rampant LIBOR frauds and taxpayer bailing out RBS or BHS or Carillion.

East Kent fortunate in improving its broadband speeds from the hitech Discovery Park and Pfizer science labs, and 4 nearby universities and 3 main hospitals.

Thailand shifting rapidly back to full democracy with its Thailand 4.0 governance and a Team Thailand of Durian Diplomacy with OTOP and Doitung and specific market sectors for growth UK only late last year producing its first Industrial Plan ever. Anyone know what’s in it or how it will be achieved?

And surely the Trump Davos15 Friends a key UK strategic interest too given they are some of Europe’s largest businesses. Siemens and Krupp already expanding their investments in UK. HBSC moving beyond talk too?

But shades of Who Lost China again with Germany with far more trade than UK in the Middle Kingdom and without any of the benefits of Hong Kong or Commonwealth relationships.

Let’s hope the North Korea changes are reflected in a Singapore Summit beyond more talks about talks and prosperity for UK too.

Time for Change

Friday, 18 May 2018

Trump on North Korea. And UK?

What an astonishing series of events over the last few months with POTUS Trump policy on North Korea.

From the Little Rocket Man and dotard, fire and fury insults at the start of the year with missiles aimed at Guam and fortunately mistaken missile alerts in Hawaii (relevant for improved Pacific Resilience with yet another volcano erupting?) the thaw has begun.

A United Korea sports team at the Winter Olympics with Kim Jong-Un’s sister meeting South Korea’s President and VP Mike Pence – or at least sat near him in the bleachers- astonishing enough.

And shattering the ice of a Korea frozen since 1953, the North Korean and South Korean presidents meeting at the Panmunjon peace village on the DMZ and stepping onto each other’s land before more detailed discussions.

Then new State Dept Secretary Mike Pompeo returning with 3 American prisoners held in North Korea.

And the North Korean timezone adjusted by 30 minutes (or should that be 70 years?) to correspond with South Korea’s.

While President Xi of China, in a Western business suit compared to Kim Jong-Un’s Mao suit urging on détente and US-China trade links with ZTE Telecoms.

Trump Towers surely a beacon gleaming out over China to the UN Habitat offices in Fukuoka for redevelopment of the slums of India and Africa?

And the North Korean test site dismantled in just a fortnight along with South Korean press observers as verification.
The whole nuclear test site demolished as Putin’s Novichok chemical weapons site a sign of real change.

But now a Summit in Singapore to detail more reforms.

And UK?

Certainly urging on a peace treaty as a signatory with over 1,000 UK troops killed in the 1950-53 war. A poignant memorial here in East Kent at Margate cemetery of bare brick alluding to the desperate poverty of a Britain still crippled from WW2.

The WW2 rationing continuing into the 1950’s – shades of the need for North Korean conscript troops often deployed out of their barracks and trenches and into the fields at harvest time.

And if the Who Lost China debate still rages, with Germany for example far outshining UK investments in China, then East Germany is perhaps relevant for the likely reunification of Korea.

Slowly and then as an avalanche the cracks appeared in East Germany’s glasnost with West Germany as the Berlin Wall fell and within two years full reunification was achieved.

Undoubtedly as with East Germany (anyone for a used Trabant? No?) almost all North Korea’s infrastructure will need to be replaced.
And shouldn’t UK be sat at that top table of discussions?

Even a new Landrover Defender factory of UK’s richest man £21BN Jim Ratcliffe.

Whether it’s Sheffield’s new Boeing HQ and the replacement of all 19 of Koryo Airlines passenger planes – banned from most nations as decrepit and dangerous. Even Chinook Resilience helicopters given the mountainous, remote, frozen terrain and poor roads of many North Korean towns and villages, North Korea’s transport structure will need the rust scraping off it.

South Korean and Chinese investors must already be chomping at the bit.

Those North Korean rocket scientists might be worthy addition to UK’s space agency unless Florida and NASA are calling first.

A shoo-in too for Seabees and Royal Engineers assistance and cooperation with North Korea, from the remote roads and aid airstrips and bridges, of frontier economies such as Sudan, Afghanistan and Myanmar.

The frontiers of both North Korea and Myanmar described recently as stuck in the past of the WW2 era.

POTUS Trump will no doubt reinvigorate his 15 Davos friends. Krupp steel may face greater competition from Chinese and South Korean steel, but surely Nokia and its proven Smart Cities work in Chattanooga perfect for Pyonyang?

The New York Times even urging similar public transport and Climate Change reforms closer to home in Nashville.

The Nestle-Starbucks joint venture paying dividends already with the first Starbucks café to open in Yangon – only Laos the last ASEAN nation to benefit from the surge in coffee culture.

And from his Swiss boarding school days, Kim Jong-Un might welcome some more Nestle chocolate in North Korea. Even Lucky Iron Fish iron supplement.
The Volvo Ocean Race might end up making waves off a united Korea’s beaches too.

And Statoil and Total oil must be putting a shine on their solar panel and windfarm divisions – UK’s ITV news credits showing a stunning map of the world lit up at might from space. Except North Korea.

20M people in one main city and dozens of small towns will need both modern energy and telecoms – especially the internet and wifi given South Korea’s pre-eminence as a Digital Nation.

Opening up North Korea might help UK expand its internet activity with South Korea too. The BT reforms over its failed sports channel surely ripe for consideration of UK free public wifi and speeding up 5G rollout.

Even teeing up a few Japanese and South Korean baseball teams (a United Korea team again?) for display matches for next year’s Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees fames in London.

UK at the moment looking like the North Korea of digital compared to South Korea.

Certainly the gurgling of EU talent for the Creative Industries down the Brain Drain is likely to speed up with any Brexit or talk of Brexit.

While UK as the surveillance nation with most CCTV cameras and even SmartMeter and Sony TV televisions more suited to a draconian police state as North Korea or East Germany as was?

UK a colder, more hostile nation after any Brexit?

And East Germany after 25 years of the last Russian troops leaving, is in need of another great leap forward in redevelopment from weak economic statistics. The 1,000 strong US Army Europe HQ heading eastwards to Frau Merkel’s constituency?

UK troops, and police, now less relevant in the face of Russian border-nibbling militarism held in Donetsk, sat in barracks in Germany. Yet Albania in danger of becoming Europe’s only narcostate with 40% of its farmland under marijuana, and the most drugs prisoners in UK jails after Jamaica cycling through jail and probation on the rates.

Former Tony Blair aide Alastair Campbell no doubt offering wise advise to Albania’s PM Edi Rama and ladeling out funds from the bureaucratic nightmare of the alphabet soup of EBRD and IMF etc.

While Davos15’s HSBC and Deloitte are surely ideal to navigate the shoals and reefs of AIIB and ADB funding, the former with UK and latter with Japan but neither with USA. And a larger bowl of alphabet soup in IMF and UN oversight.

UK-USA companies such as Walmart-Asda (the latter with the Sainsbury merger too?) relevant for a hungry and famine-ridden North Korea.

That UN oversight no doubt extending to SUN Scaling Up Nutrition for North Korea’s hungry people.

And plus-fours if not quite a hammer and sickle, best suited to a Trump hotel and casino in downtown Pyongyang and certainly golf-mad South Korea along with Taiwan (another UK lost opportunity with woeful UK expats undermining the British Council?) must be ripe for a few Trump golf courses and beach resorts?

Opportunities in the landmine-laden DMZ even after cleanup, with the border area a wilderness and wildlife reserve through the conflict. Those North Korean military binoculars and bunkers used on wildlife rather than troop formations.

Even British companies doing rather well in Asia such as Boots and eventually Paul Smith fashions perhaps boosted by David Beckham as a Sports Diplomacy football icon and now the British Fashion Council Ambassador. Plus of course plus fours, or just baggy trousers, of Victoria Beckham’s stylish fashions competing with Ramsgate’s Vivienne Westwood and her new advertising campaign with Margate’s Tracy Emin.

While North Korea’s people must want a change from propaganda whether their own television and radio or VOA so shouldn’t BBCTV be pressing for media deals? Even the archives of North Korean television and radio shows as historical artefacts.

Those North Korean Mao suits no doubt quickly replaced by Levis and Burberry too.

North Korea changing from 1950’s Cold War sabre-rattling relic to being poised to become a 21st century smart nation within weeks.

Not so much the winds of change but a hurricane of activity blowing through East Asia because of Trump.

USA trade sanctions too likely to fall away from Cuba as the Castro regime fades too? For an America First President Trump is already leading the way on international activity.

The Kelloggs factory evacuated in Venezuela, and then nationalised in the face of USA sanctions and 190,000 citizens fleeing as far south as Argentina and Chile for their own cornflakes suggests the Venezuelan economy is far behind North Korea and even Russia in snap, crackle and pop.

Already calls for the Nobel Peace prize for POTUS Trump becoming louder and only dimmed through the divisions of the Paris Climate Agreement, Jerusalem Embassy – 52 protesters shot dead on the first day - and Iran nuclear deal.

And if denuclearisation undoubtedly means the end of North Korea’s nuclear activity certainly too a reduction and ultimately withdrawal of American troops back to Japan is viable.

And as the border island disputes between North and South Korea fall away as a united nation, the Trump Summit could lay the groundwork for Korea-Japan island disputes, even the beginnings of an East Asian version of the EU with Korea, Japan, China, Russia, Taiwan and Mongolia cooperating on peace and prosperity.

Trains crucial too for connectivity with Kim Jong-Un (that armoured Presidential train to China almost identical to Octopussy and Goldeneye train sets of East Kent’s James Bond, but without the nuclear warheads? Xmas fixtures of East Kent’s Hornby and Airfix too?) already urging a rail link between Seoul and Pyongyang.

Apt too that Ramsgate’s Manston airport in East Kent, featuring in the Moonraker novel, doubled as a North Korean set in the Die Another Day 007 movie.
With Siemens going into overdrive from its new East Yorkshire factory on rail carriages?

And no doubt onto China’s OBOR and even Bering Strait Bridge to Canada and USA – maybe Krupp would want to be involved in that megaproject with SAP and ABB AI and robotic systems.

The Korean-Japan undersea tunnel long discussed too and hardly more outrageous than the Channel Tunnel here in East Kent.

Those Californian Apple computers and phones (and South Korea’s Samsung) manufactured in China as well as Korea and shipped across the Pacific with superdry feet.

Trump in North Korea already achieving more in six months than previous regimes in 6 decades.

UK only watching from the sidelines?

Time for Change

Saturday, 12 May 2018

UK and Mexico lost to drugs gangs? Frontline Kent.

You'd think so from the Bank Holiday Weekend carnage of a knife death in Liverpool, a gun death in London and a drive-by shooting.

Redolent of the Sawdust Caesars of Mods and Rockers Bank Holiday gang violence in East Kent in the 1960's but now violence and drugs and deaths more prevalent.

And the National Crime Agency reports a doubling of knife crime in the last 3 years in Hertfordshire and Warwickshire and Cambridgeshire.

The Sunday Times front pages reporting:

"Knife crime epidemic hits the shires” and “City drug gangs bring bloodshed to counties" with knife crime up 20% in London yet 86% in Essex and 274% in Norfolk.
Perhaps from low levels, but even so a concern if you're now more likely to be stabbed in Bedford than Liverpool. And an increase in acid attacks as big city gangs take over smaller town dealers.

As an aside having worked on tourism and regeneration in Liverpool a great British success story from the days of hubcaps and heroin thefts. And relevant for the new Channel Four HQ.

A Home Office report though details 720 heroin and cocaine routes from the main cities of London, Liverpool and Manchester to rural areas. No doubt a top priority for new Home Office Minister Sajid Javid with the Windrush debacle broadly being resolved.

And the Taliban safe havens slowly being eroded from the Pakistani frontier, indeed former cricketer Imran Khan's election bid a precursor for closer Commonwealth activity?

And of course Caribbean Commonwealth tax havens for drug profits.

Kent Police detailing the cuckooing phenomenon of drugs dealers taking over houses in the Chatham Pocket of Kent's decaying towns and drug areas.

And POTUS Trump's NRA Rifle Association speech throwing a little petrol on the fire of inner city deprivation in comparing London knife deaths to USA gun deaths.
As with the POTUS Trump blood-stained hospitals remark, grumbling not unreasonably at the $1BN cost of the new USA embassy offices or new NATO HQ - both price tags would provide a lot of clean new hospitals or elderly care homes - the remarks can be overblown.

Confused too, as with Britain First now jailed for KKK-style race hate crimes, perhaps from his America First campaign.

Over 60 knife deaths in London so far this year higher than usual but pale into insignificance with 60 gun deaths just in Chicago last week.

500 murders in UK each year or 5 police bullets fired is hardly excessive.

The NRA lobby vocal for many USA politicians and also the Mexico border wall - even with many guns shipped into Mexico from USA by drug gangs.

Frontline Kent clearly not immune from the increase in drugs and knives. Dover, Europe's largest port and the main route with Heathrow and Manchester airport for drug smuggling, whether by ferries of HGV lorries.

Belgium, one of the centres of Europe's Golden Triangle of London, Amsterdam and Paris, with the most drugs arrests in Europe.

Frontline Kent with Chief Constable Pughsley and his team active on Slovak AK47 and machine gun seizures for London drugs gangs at Dover.

Kent also the base of UK's largest gun haul with 34 AK47 machine guns at Rochester Marina last year and 3 AK47 and Skorpion Uzi-style machine guns last week.

And Project Pegasus – shades of an Airbase Heroin needed in Shan Myanmar - in place for smaller airports eg Netherlands drug smugglers arrested at Biggin Hill, and Project Kraken for ports and yacht marinas.

Almeria in Southern Spain's Carboneras seafood featuring as a favourite for Colombian hitman Popeye Velasquez of Pablo Escobar cartel, the bizarre Carboneras council hiring him for tourism recommendations(!).

Nice seafood in Almeria of course and just a short boat journey from Morocco for drugs smuggling. Spanish police having a siesta?.

Almeria though a superb success story as in Spanish and EU regeneration - the litter of syringes and heroin vials giving way to cleaned up town centres, Malaga yacht marina, and Almeria University and network of Southern Spain universities from the Sevilla Expo.

UK even slipping backwards on rabies control of pets etc from Europe.

Increased USA National Guard patrols on the Mexico border better than paid to sit in barracks with 1M regular troops in USA - and forward placed into Guerrero?
Even the proverbial cannabis under the stairs or back bedroom becoming the whole attic and basement and barns and outhouses.

The Garden of England may be rather tatty and overgrown at the moment but a 3 foot machete of more use in Thailand's forest than Kent.

But what is to be done? Warm words on this or that and handwringing of no real use. And the ban on zombie knives a start.

Certainly Kent Police firm on drugs under Chief Constable Pughsley with a police-crime ring smashed.

But there are UK improvements:

* enforce zero knives carry beyond the Great British Swiss Army penknife
* buy up and end High St sales of knives and guns
* 3 knife and gun amnesties regularly each year
* publish on all 43 police forces that month’s drugs/guns etc haul and arrests
* QPM medal based towards the USA Purple Heart system if not a specific Drugs Medal with awards for first copper through the drug den door etc
* Tighten Kent's Benelux links: and Slovakia the source of many guns adapted from hunting - shades of the bump stocks gun problem in USA

(to be continued)

Time for Change