China’s expanding marine corps. According to a report aired by China’s state broadcaster, the country’s marine corps “has been expanded and upgraded to a unit of its own.” China’s marine corps was first established in 1953, but the country has long been unable to field an amphibious force capable of retaking Taiwan, and with this announcement, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (the marine corps will still be part of the navy) is making clear its intention to increase efforts to build such a force. With China’s push into the South and East China seas, Beijing has more territory to defend, which requires amphibious capabilities. Recent estimates from the Jamestown Foundation put China’s marine corps at around 40,000 strong, much smaller than that of the U.S. (about 200,000 soldiers).

Off to the hypersonic races. Xiamen University in China has conducted a successful test flight of its own hypersonic plane in the Gobi Desert. This marks the first time a university, rather than a military, has carried out a successful flight of a hypersonic vehicle. Though Xiamen University made its design public, details of the flight remain classified, as the military helped fund the project – which isn’t surprising, given the inherent challenges of constructing hypersonic craft. On the other side of the Pacific, Lockheed Martin is working on approximately $2.5 billion in military contracts for hypersonic weapons, according to its CEO, who discussed the topic during the company’s quarterly earnings call. Last year, the United States’ National Defense Strategy highlighted the rapid development of hypersonic technology as an area of strategic importance.

Egypt passes constitutional amendments. Egyptians have voted by an overwhelming majority in favor of constitutional amendments that will allow President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi to extend his current term in office by two years. The amendments extend presidential terms to six years and will allow Sissi to run for a third term. The amendments also grant the president new powers to appoint heads of certain judiciary bodies. As Egypt’s North African neighbors Libya and Algeria increasingly look to be heading toward institutional restructuring, Sissi looks to be further consolidating his grip on power in Egypt.

Russia talks tough on NATO. Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of Russia’s military General Staff, said NATO continues to increase its military presence on Russia’s western borders – and that will force Russia to take retaliatory measures like deploying troops to its southern and western military districts. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu added that Russia will take retaliatory measures in a “timely manner, and not necessarily symmetrically with NATO actions.” Gerasimov also said, however, that Russia is not preparing for war.

An opening for Huawei. The U.K.’s National Security Council reportedly agreed on Tuesday to grant China’s Huawei restricted access to “non-core” parts of its 5G mobile infrastructure, the Daily Telegraph reported. In an interview with BBC Radio, the head of the cyber center at the U.K.’s signals intelligence agency drew a distinction between sophisticated network components that function as the network’s brain and those that merely transport data; Huawei would be limited to the latter. The United States has urged allies not to use Huawei out of concerns that the company’s products could be compromised, and several high-ranking British government ministers – including the foreign and defense ministers – reportedly raised concerns about the decision of the NSC, which is chaired by Prime Minister Theresa May. Speaking at a conference in Scotland on Wednesday, a senior official from the U.S. National Security Agency said the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance (comprising the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada and New Zealand) would not use Huawei or Chinese technologies in their most sensitive networks.

India cuts Iranian crude. India finally appears to be preparing to cut back on purchases of Iranian oil. When the U.S. first reimposed sanctions against Iran late last year, India, one of Iran’s biggest oil customers, pushed back hard (though the U.S. later granted India a waiver, so it could continue purchasing Iranian oil). But on Tuesday, India’s petroleum minister said that India is in fact planning to offset Iranian imports by purchasing oil from other countries before the waiver expires on May 2. The U.S. is still cutting India some slack, given the strategic alliance between the two; according to The Hindu newspaper, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said Indian-Iranian activities related to the Chabahar Port will be exempt from sanctions. The U.S. official clarified that the Chabahar Port supports economic development in Afghanistan, something that the U.S. does not wish to impede.

Honorable Mentions