China’s debt-trap diplomacy. Kenyan newspaper the Daily Nation reported in its Sunday edition seeing a copy of a loan contract between Kenya and China for the Mombasa-Nairobi railway. According to the newspaper, Kenya offered infrastructure projects, including assets such as the Port of Mombasa, as collateral for a Chinese loan to build the railway. The paper also reported that Kenya has no “right of immunity on the grounds of sovereignty” under the contract and that the loan agreement is governed by Chinese law. China’s Foreign Ministry denied the report, saying the Mombasa port was not used as collateral for the loan. Two weeks ago, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said he would release the contract, but, according to the newspaper report, it contains a secrecy clause that prevents either party from releasing it publicly. Meanwhile, Kenya is in talks with the International Monetary Fund, which recently downgraded the country’s default risk from stable to moderate, for a new standby loan agreement. (Kenya lost access to a prior deal in 2017 when its budgetary spending exceeded its revenue.) The news comes as concerns are growing among Asian and African countries that China is using debt to secure strategic assets abroad.

China’s space adventures. China’s National Space Administration said that it could grow the first flower on the moon using an airtight cylinder carried in the Chang’e 4 spacecraft, which recently landed on the far side of the moon. The cylinder also contains potato seeds and silkworm eggs. Growing food on the moon would be a first step toward establishing a more permanent base there, but China isn’t the only country taking a greater interest in space exploration. India recently used a heavy rocket to launch a geosynchronous satellite into orbit, which it will use again later this month for its second robotic mission to the moon. And today, Iran launched a satellite that failed to reach orbit. (Many believe Iran’s space program is a cover for the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.) Military and intelligence capabilities in space will play crucial roles in competition between states in the 21st century.

Sweden’s satellite. The Swedish Defense Research Agency, which falls under the Swedish Ministry of Defense, said Sunday that China’s involvement in the construction of one of its satellite stations could be a national security threat. Sweden is building the civilian station in conjunction with a civilian Chinese agency, but the Defense Research Agency said China could use photos of the arctic region taken by the station to supplement its military intelligence in the event of a war. The statement follows a trend of European countries growing wary of China’s involvement in strategic technological ventures and research initiatives.

Uncertainty for Syrian Kurds. While in Riyadh, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States is in talks to establish the safe zone for Syrian Kurds that President Donald Trump mentioned in a recent tweet. Pompeo added, however, that the U.S. plans to protect Syria’s Kurds would not change Washington’s intention to withdraw from Syria. Ankara and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, had mixed responses to the proposed safe zone. On Monday a spokesperson for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would continue to fight the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, which Ankara sees as no different from the Islamic State, though Erdogan later announced Turkey would be willing to create an 18.6-mile (30-kilometer) safe zone in Kurdish-occupied territory. A spokesperson for the PYD, in turn, said that establishing a safe zone administered by Turkey would be tantamount to Kurdish genocide. Even with U.S. support (in the form of economic threats against Turkey), it’s hard to imagine Syrian Kurds being content with any settlement that the two NATO allies might agree on.

Honorable Mentions

  • The Moldovan breakaway region of Transnistria, which Russia effectively controls, is planning to open a diplomatic mission in Moscow.
  • Foreign direct investment in China increased by 3 percent in 2018, hitting a new record of roughly $135 billion.
  • A conservative Iranian politician has said he supports giving the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps greater control over economic affairs.
  • The foreign minister for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus said the U.N. peacekeeping mission on the island should end and become a civilian mission. In exchange, he said, the TRNC should be able to share in the wealth generated from offshore natural resources. Turkey has approximately 40,000 soldiers deployed to Northern Cyprus.
  • In an attempt to boost consumer spending, China’s Hebei province has proposed extending the weekend to 2.5 days by allowing workers to leave early on Fridays.
  • China’s customs authority claimed that Chinese trade with North Korea declined 88 percent compared with the previous year.
  • In an interview with RIA Novosti, Zimbabwe’s president said his country would be interested in receiving loans and military modernization help from Russia.
  • Russia’s deputy prime minister said during an economic forum that the number of Russians living below the poverty line decreased by 0.5 percent in 2017 compared with the previous year.