Legal hurdle cleared in Canada. Canada’s Department of Justice announced that an extradition hearing for Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou would proceed on March 6, saying that the evidence presented by the United States to Canadian authorities was sufficient to formally commence the extradition process. The decision clears a major hurdle in the Canadian legal process, indicating that the U.S. extradition request complies with the requirements of the U.S.-Canada extradition treaty and, by implication, that the charges against Meng are not politically motivated, though a Canadian court still has to make a final ruling on the extradition. China’s embassy in Canada said it was “utterly dissatisfied” with the decision.

The U.S. supports an ally. During a visit to Manila on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea would trigger mutual defense obligations under Article IV of our Mutual Defense Treaty.” The U.S.-Philippine alliance has been listing, and China has responded with increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea. But as we noted recently, the U.S. has for the past two decades avoided saying whether it would help defend Philippine claims in the South China Sea under the treaty, and Manila has been urging Washington to make a firmer commitment (as it did with Japan and the East China Sea in 2015). There are still holes in Pompeo’s interpretation wide enough to steer a frigate through, but it’s a step forward for the alliance.

Iranian bank mergers. The Central Bank of Iran announced that five Iranian banks affiliated with the Iranian armed forces and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps would merge with Bank Sepah into a “single, stable, and efficient bank.” This follows on the heels of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s suggestion that such a merger would happen in the next three weeks, though neither the central bank nor Rouhani gave an exact date. The merger, which would create the second-largest bank in the country, has been discussed in the past, but it’s been delayed by the political and economic interests of the various military and security institutions the banks represent. For the government, the larger goal is to assert control over military and security institution finances and reduce corruption.

Space, the final frontier. U.S. aerospace company SpaceX launched its Crew Dragon capsule early this morning from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The end-to-end test is a key part of SpaceX’s contract with NASA to provide transport for astronauts from the U.S. to the International Space Station, where Crew Dragon is set to dock tomorrow morning. Since the retirement of the space shuttle program in 2011, NASA has relied on Russia to transport its astronauts to and from the International Space Station. It has signed contracts with SpaceX and Boeing to alleviate that dependence. There is still plenty that could go wrong on this test flight, and at least one more test flight is scheduled before advancing to a manned-flight test, but U.S. space programs have always been about small steps.

Honorable Mentions

  • China closed a consulate in Izmir, Turkey, claiming it’s a temporary closure to improve efficiency. It comes days after Turkey’s foreign minister criticized China’s treatment of ethnic Uighurs at a United Nations human rights forum.
  • Uganda summoned the Rwandan ambassador after accusing Rwanda of closing their shared border. Rwanda has responded by insisting the border is open but urged Rwandan citizens to avoid all travel to Uganda.
  • Unnamed U.S. defense officials told NBC that the U.S. will end annual, large-scale military drills with South Korea and replace them with small, mission-specific training.
  • The annual meeting of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference begins tomorrow.
  • Saudi Arabia said it was preparing to put human rights activists arrested last year on trial. They are the same activists whose arrests led to a diplomatic spat between Canada and Saudi Arabia last year.