Suspicious activity near the China-Bhutan border. Satellite imagery obtained by Indian news portal The Print reportedly shows new construction activity by the Chinese military near the contentious Doklam plateau. In 2017, the Indian and Chinese militaries engaged in a 72-day standoff in Doklam. According to the report, permanent structures shown in the images could serve as storage, parking or accommodations. There is also a newly constructed unpaved road leading to the structures, located just 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) from the border. There was also speculation that one of the structures may be a helicopter hanger, though no support structures have been identified. More activity was observed in Cona County, near the border in eastern Bhutan. Here, China is reportedly constructing a series of roads and bridges for transport of goods or troops stationed in the area. The report said troops numbering more than a battalion were stationed there and a tunneling facility was possibly being upgraded.
More precision-guided missiles for Hezbollah. According to Israel’s Channel 13, intelligence reports indicate Iran helped Hezbollah construct a new missile facility in Beirut. The report said the factory could include the capability to produce precision-guided missiles. It also claimed that Israeli intelligence shared the information with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who then warned Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri about the facility’s location. Hezbollah is believed to have precision-guided missile storage sites in Beirut near major civilian infrastructure, including an airport and a football stadium.
North Korea’s food shortage. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service reportedly told lawmakers Friday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered his Foreign Ministry to ask international organizations for aid because the country was experiencing a severe food shortage. According to some experts, the country’s food and oil supplies are barely enough to last a year. The regime reportedly confiscated the U.S. dollar holdings of overseas trading companies in an effort to raise foreign currency reserves.
The U.S. welcome in Iraq. Iraq’s parliamentary speaker said in an interview that U.S. forces are still needed in Iraq to combat the Islamic State’s remaining presence. It seems Iraq is being pulled in two directions: It still wants ties with the United States, and some 5,000 U.S. troops remain stationed there. But it also has a strong Iranian presence as Iran-backed politicians are winning seats in the government, Iranian trade (including electricity) is increasingly important to the Iraqi economy, and tens of thousands of Iran-backed militants operate in Iraq. The speaker’s comments show that Iraq still believes it needs U.S. support despite the growing Iranian influence in the country.
Europe shifting on Iran? In a letter sent to U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, France, Germany and Britain warned that Iran’s recent development and launching of ballistic missiles are part of efforts to develop nuclear-capable missiles and violate a 2015 U.N. resolution. The statement is notable given Europe’s objection to the reimposition of U.S. sanctions on Iran. Diplomatic concerns over Iran’s missile program, which led to Washington’s decision to reapply sanctions in the first place, may be an indication that Europe is moving toward backing U.S. pressure on Iran.
U.S. deployments in the Western Pacific. According to Japanese media, a U.S. Air Force RC-135S Cobra Ball, a reconnaissance aircraft designed to monitor ballistic missile launches, arrived in Japan over the weekend amid speculation that North Korea is planning to resume missile testing. U.S. Marines also deployed 14 aircraft to South Korea for joint exercises and an amphibious assault ship carrying 10 F-35Bs (more than such ships can usually carry) to the South China Sea. And according to the South China Morning Post, the U.S. and Philippines are in talks over the possible deployment of a U.S. rocket system to help the Philippines boost its defense capabilities against Chinese expansion in the South China Sea.
- Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that was stepping down, effective immediately, in a letter published on Tuesday.
- China’s services sector grew at its fastest pace in 14 months, according to a Caixin survey.
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lodged formal objections with local elections officials over his party’s losses in Ankara and Istanbul.
- The U.S. approved the sale of 24 MH-60R Seahawk multi-mission helicopters, which specialize in detecting and attacking submarines and surface ships, to India.
- The U.S. special representative for Iran said Tuesday that three of the eight countries that were granted waivers to import Iranian oil without incurring U.S. sanctions have cut their oil imports from Iran to zero. He added that the U.S. does not intend to extend waivers that were granted in November. On Monday, an anonymous White House official told reporters that the administration is considering additional sanctions against Iran.
- The nominee to lead U.S. Africa Command told senators in a meeting on Tuesday that Chinese and Russian military aid and investments in Africa are harmful to U.S. national security.
- Retail sales in the eurozone grew by 2.8 percent in February, one positive economic indicator among many negative ones that have emerged recently.
- British Prime Minister Theresa May said she would work with the opposition Labour Party to find a resolution to the Brexit impasse and avoid a no-deal withdrawal. She also said she will ask the European Union for another extension past the April 12 deadline.
- Kazakhstan’s new president arrived in Russia on an official visit.
- According to a report from German business weekly Wirtschaftswoche, Commerzbank will decide whether to continue exploring merger talks with Deutsche Bank on April 9.
- Venezuela exported 980,355 barrels per day of crude and fuel in March despite sanctions and power outages. These levels show no significant decline compared to February exports.
- The European Commission started another infringement procedure against Poland for interfering with judicial independence. Warsaw has two months to reply.
- The British services Purchasing Managers’ Index fell to 48.9 points in March from 51.3 the month before. It’s the first time the PMI has been below 50, and thus into contraction, since July 2016.
- After Gambia became the 22nd country to ratify the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, the agreement will take effect later this year. According to Africa News, the deal will create the world’s largest free trade zone, increase trade within Africa by 52 percent by 2022, and remove tariffs on 90 percent of goods.
- Iran continues to suffer from major flooding in Khuzestan. Some 70 villages in the province have been ordered to evacuate. The armed forces, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, have been heavily involved in supplying food and providing aid to the areas most affected.