Tag Archives: developing

Why is South Korea developing an Israeli-style Iron Dome?

Seoul, South Korea – South Korea is developing a new artillery and short-range rocket defence system modelled after Israel’s Iron Dome, in a further upgrade to its military hardware on a peninsula that technically remains at war.

The South Korean government said last month that it plans to spend about $ 2.5bn on research and development and deploy the new system by 2035.

The 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, and since then North and South have built up troops and armaments along the demilitarised zone (DMZ) that separates the two countries. North Korea has also in recent years developed nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, although the envisioned South Korean defence system will not be able to defend against those weapons, it will be able to target artillery and short-range rockets.

North Korea has an estimated 10,000 artillery pieces, including rocket launchers, dug in just north of the DMZ, less than 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the greater Seoul area and its 25 million residents, half of South Korea’s population.

South Korea’s new system will aim to defend the South Korean capital, its core facilities, as well as key military and security infrastructure from a potential North Korean bombardment, using interceptor missiles.

But South Korea’s artillery interceptor system will need to be significantly more capable than the Israeli system.

“The Iron Dome responds to rockets fired by militant groups, such as Hamas and irregular forces sporadically,” said Colonel Suh Yong-won, spokesperson for the Defence Acquisition Programme Administration (DAPA) in June. “Some parts of the system will bear similarities, but what we are going to build is designed to intercept long-range artillery pieces by North Korea, which requires a higher level of technologies given the current security situation.”

That is why, he said, the South Korean system is expected to cost a lot more than the Israeli system.

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Military experts also noted that Israel needed to shoot down far fewer projectiles than South Korea would probably have to. Hamas fired about 4,300 rockets across 10 days in the most recent Gaza conflict. But using more advanced targeting, large cannon and rocket launchers, North Korea can initially fire an estimated 16,000 rounds an hour, according to a recent report by the Hankyoreh newspaper.

“It’s an incredibly challenging undertaking,” said Ankit Panda, Stanton senior fellow in the Nuclear Policy Programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

‘No choice’

Still, experts seem confident South Korea will be able to develop an effective missile defence against North Korea’s artillery and rocket fire. The question is the price. For many states, national security and specifically military budgets challenge conventional cost-benefit analysis.

“There is no choice for South Korea, it can’t be helped,” said Jo Dong Joon, director of the Center for North Korea Studies at Seoul National University. “South Korea worries that North Korea could fire its long-range artillery without much fear of retaliation.”

The impetus for developing the system came in 2010, when North Korea shelled the border island of Yeonpyeong and killed four people.

According to the Hankyoreh newspaper, following the Yeonpyeong incident, South Korean authorities considered introducing an Iron Dome system, but ultimately deemed it inappropriate. Their focus at the time was to destroy the source of the incoming fire.

For that, South Korea last year deployed new Korea Tactical Surface to Surface Missiles, KTSSMs, so-called “artillery killers” with a range of 100km (62 miles) and designed specifically to destroy the North’s artillery, said Jo, who also specialises in nuclear strategy. But South Korea’s KTSSMs will take time to target and destroy the source of fire – the artillery pieces and rocket launchers – which could give Pyongyang enough time to strike and destroy key facilities in Seoul.

South Korea’s new “Iron Dome”-style system will defend against that threat, with the Patriot and Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile defence already deployed to defend against North Korea’s ballistic missiles.

North Korea has been upgrading its arsenal and military hardware, unveiling what it described as the ‘world’s most powerful weapon’ at a parade in January [File: KCNA via Reuters]

Deter nuclear escalation

By defending against the North’s artillery and rockets along the DMZ, some experts believe limited provocations will be deterred, and be less likely to escalate into a larger conflict involving the North’s nuclear weapons.

“North Korea’s escalation ladder now reaches very high – to nuclear weapons,” explained Jo, adding that South Korea must be able to respond specifically to the artillery threat, or impose the greater risk of provoking escalation.

North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons creates a number of strategic challenges beyond the weapons themselves. The threat of their use emboldens Pyongyang, and places Seoul at a disadvantage despite its vastly superior conventional forces, and alliance with the United States.

“North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons is the cause of the breakdown of the strategic balance … missile defence adjusts that imbalance a little bit,” explained Go Myung-hyun, a research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

But anti-missile and anti-artillery defence is seen as a relatively expensive undertaking, involving years of research and development, for a debatable benefit. The spending on defensive systems can be compensated with the deployment of more offensive missiles to overcome the defensive system, and it would cost less.

“It will always be cheaper for any attacker, be it North Korea, be it Hamas, to acquire more offensive missiles, than it will be for defenders to continue procuring defensive interceptors,” said Carnegie’s Panda. “The resources South Korea’s going to be spending … has opportunity costs elsewhere, on what South Korea could spend on offensive weapons.”

At the same time, South Korea’s burgeoning military-industrial complex could greatly benefit from the project beyond the initial research, development and deployment for South Korea.

“A system like this could be attractive as a potential export,” said Panda.


Still, some vehemently have opposed the programme, arguing that it is South Korea’s increasing military spending – now approaching $ 50bn a year – that is driving an inter-Korean arms race.

“Long-range artillery is a threat, but South Korea’s military and weapons deployments are also a threat to North Korea,” said Park Jung-eun, secretary-general of People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, a prominent South Korean NGO.

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South Korea has been upgrading its military hardware in a number of areas, including the development and deployment of advanced naval destroyers, its own artillery, rocket and missile systems, and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, which are all generations ahead of North Kora’s weapons systems. It is this imbalance in conventional forces that drives Pyongyang to alternative strategies.

“This increase in arms ultimately prevents the North from making other choices … to focus on asymmetric weapons such as nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction,” said Park.

South Korea’s democratic leadership spends even more than conservatives, said Park, who has worked in peace activism for 15 years. Democrats want to avoid criticism of being soft and placate a military less enthusiastic about peace initiatives.

There is also a corporate motivation behind the approval of such an expensive project.

“This could be a way to feed the conglomerate defence companies, whether Samsung or Hanwha, for unrealistic military defence,” said Park.

One of the criticisms of Iron Dome is that it prevents the Israeli government from pursuing a resolution of the longstanding roots of the problem diplomatically.

Park makes the same evaluation for South Korea.

“Instead of the Iron Dome, I think that we need to focus more on dialogue.”

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This post originally posted here Al Jazeera – Breaking News, World News and Video from Al Jazeera

Norway Creates Global Climate Investment Fund to Cut Emissions in Developing Countries

coal-fired plant

AP Photo / Branden Camp

Described as a milestone by the government, the fund has sparked criticism from both left and right – for being “too little” and coming “too late”, as well as for being pointless, as the developing countries themselves invest heavily in coal.

The Norwegian government has announced it will establish a new climate fund to cut emissions in developing countries, in line with the Paris Agreement, in which rich countries pledged to annually contribute billions of dollars in aid to cover developing countries’ ever-increasing energy needs.

The new climate investment fund is expected to have NOK 10 billion ($ 1.1 billion) over the next five years and will be managed by Norfund, a private equity company established by the Norwegian parliament in 1997 and owned by the Foreign Ministry. The fund receives its investment capital from the state budget and its mission is to help developing countries fight poverty through supporting economic growth, employment and technology transfer.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg emphasised that this is not a “greenwashing” of Norwegian politics, which is a recurrent criticism of the liberal-conservative coalition among the opposition.

“No, this is a hot real answer to the Paris Agreement. We follow up on what we have committed to, which is to participate in financing in other countries. It is not a replacement for what we are going to do here at home, but an addition,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg told national broadcaster NRK.

The new fund is expected to contribute to the global phasing out of coal production by 2040. As of now, up to 30 percent of global greenhouse emissions are estimated to stem from the use of coal plants.

“The need is enormous and will only increase in the future,” Prime Minister Solberg said.

Solberg encouraged investors to join the Climate Investment Fund when it becomes operational.

“To succeed in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, especially in Asia, we must include other commercial capital,” Solberg underscored.

Development Aid Minister Dag-Inge Ulstein described the Climate Investment Fund as a “milestone in Norwegian development aid history”.

“We know that even if we give one percent to aid, the world’s aid funds alone will never solve global challenges such as climate change,” he emphasised.

CEO Tellef Thorleifsson in Norsund, stressed a great energy need in developing countries with strong growth.

“India alone is planning to develop new energy which will exceed all current consumption in the EU in the next 20 years,” he underscored. “Now we have a new, clear mandate to invest more in the markets where the climate effect will be greatest,” he said.

However, the fund sparked criticism from both left and right. According to the Socialist Left Party, the government is doing too little and too late. Its mouthpiece Kari Elisabeth Kaski demanded that an extra NOK 6 billion ($ 700 million) is earmarked each year.

By contrast, Helge Lurås, editor-in-chief of the news outlet Resett described the fund as “giving even more money abroad”. He dismissed the whole idea as pointless.

“While Norway subsidises so-called green energy, the countries themselves invest in coal power. China, India, Indonesia, Japan and Vietnam plan to build 600 new coal power plants in the coming years. China alone accounts for more than half, 368 power plants,” Lurås concluded.

Author: Igor Kuznetsov
Read more here >>> Norway Government & Politics News

AstraZeneca vaccine: Risk of developing blood clots broken down by age – MHRA latest

There is a mood of triumphalism in Britain that can be ascribed to the successful vaccine rollout. Restrictions continue to be lifted in accordance with the roadmap laid out by the Prime Minister and overwhelmed hospitals are now in the rearview mirror, the latest data suggests. Despite the rosy picture, fears about the coronavirus vaccines persist. The main concern appears to stem from reports that link AstraZeneca vaccine to blood clots.
The latest MHRA guidance on COVID-19 vaccines and blood clots has broken the risk down by age.

The regulatory body states that the risk is currently estimated to be around one in 100,000 for people over 50 and one in 50,000 for people aged between 18 and 49 years.

For people aged between 18 and 49 the guidance states that “if you are offered the [University of Oxford/AstraZeneca] vaccination you may wish to go ahead after you have considered all the risks and benefits for you.”

Why are younger cohorts at a greater risk?

The mechanisms triggering the blood clots following the AstraZeneca vaccine administration are still under investigation.

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Analysis on the small number of people who experienced blood clots after getting the AstraZeneca vaccine suggests the risk, while still small, may be higher in younger adults.

What is causing the blood clots?

Initial evidence suggests that episodes of vaccine-induced thrombosis and thrombocytopenia (VITT) are caused by an overreaction of the immune system.

This reaction leads to both low platelet levels and blood clots.

Scientists have reported a similar very rare phenomenon following the administration of heparin (an anticoagulant drug commonly used to treat or prevent blood clots), which is called heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT).

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It is important to note that none of the thrombosis with thrombocytopenia cases following the University of AstraZeneca vaccine have been exposed to this drug.

The consensus amongst health bodies is that the impact of vaccines on reducing the risk of COVID-19 largely outweighs the small risk of developing blood clots.

The general population appears to have accepted this view.

There are some concerns that reports of rare blood clots could have an impact in vaccine uptake.

If you’re at high risk, you will have had a letter from the NHS saying you’re clinically extremely vulnerable.

If you are not eligible yet, wait to be contacted – the NHS will let you know when it’s your turn to have the COVID-19 vaccine.

It’s important not to contact the NHS for a vaccination before then.

If you are eligible, you can book appointments at a larger vaccination centre or pharmacy now, or wait to be invited to go to a local NHS service.

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Health Feed
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Parkinson’s disease: Four signs that could indicate your risk of developing the condition

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Health Feed

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive condition whereby the signals communicated between the brain and nervous system are disrupted. This causes a number of impairments, many of which relate to movement. The symptoms are often subtle at first but become quite pronounced as the condition advances. What are four early signs you may be at risk?

Poor balance

Parkinson’s specifically targets nerve cells which reside deep within the brain. Basal ganglia nerves control balance and flexibility, so any damage to these nerves can impair a person’s balance.

Your GP will perform a test known as the pull test to assess a person’s balance and determine if it might be Parkinson’s disease.

If you think you may have Parkinson’s, you should speak to your GP.

They can refer you to a Parkinson’s specialist if they think your symptoms need further investigation.

Parkinson’s should only be diagnosed after having a consultation with a specialist.

It’s not always easy to diagnose the condition.

So it’s important that you see a Parkinson’s specialist to get an accurate diagnosis and to consider the best treatment options.

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Prostate cancer: The sexual symptom warning you may be at risk of a tumour developing

Prostate cancer is a form of cancer that begins in the gland cells of the prostate, found only in men. It usually develops slowly, so there may be no signs for many years. In fact, symptoms of prostate cancer do not usually appear until the prostate is large enough to affect the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the penis (urethra) and when this occurs erectile dysfunction may ensue.

Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence, could be a warning sign of advanced prostate cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

The American Cancer Society said: “More advanced prostate cancers sometimes cause symptoms such as problems urinating, blood in the urine or semen, and trouble getting an erection.”

Severe prostatitis can cause erectile dysfunction directly. In milder forms, the condition can produce painful ejaculation, which can interfere with sexual pleasure and may lead to erectile dysfunction.

Health experts now know that 70 per cent of erectile dysfunctions can be traced to a physical condition that restricts blood flow, hampers nerve functioning, or both.

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A sudden onset of erectile dysfunction may be a sign that a man has prostate cancer, so your doctor will likely order a prostate-specifics antigen (PSA) test and do a digital rectal exam during the diagnostic workup to assess this possibility,” added Harvard Health Medical School.

If you are worried about erectile dysfunction, your GP may prescribe antibiotics to treat the problem, but it could take several weeks for it to clear and for normal erections to return.

The NHS said: “Men are not routinely offered PSA tests to screen for prostate cancer, as results can be unreliable. Men over 50 can ask for a PSA test from their GP.

“This is because the PSA blood test is not specific to prostate cancer. Your PSA level can also be raised by other, non-cancerous conditions.

“Raised PSA levels also can’t tell a doctor whether a man has life-threatening prostate cancer or not.”

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Your erectile dysfunction, which is also known as impotence, would be relatively new, according to medical website Cancer.Net.

It may be caused by a tumour interfering with your nerves or blood supply.

You should consider speaking to a doctor if your erection problems keep happening.

It’s unlikely to be caused by prostate cancer, but it’s still worth getting checked out.

“Some prostate cancers grow very slowly and may not cause symptoms or problems for years or ever,” it said.

“Even when prostate cancer has spread to other parts of the body, it often can be managed for a long time, allowing men even with advanced prostate cancer to live with good health and quality of life for many years.

“The symptoms and signs of prostate cancer may include frequent urination, blood in the urine, [and] new onset of erectile dysfunction.

“If you are concerned about any changes you experience, please talk with your doctor.”

According to Cancer Research UK, other symptoms of prostate cancer include:

  • Passing urine more often
  • Getting up during the night to empty your bladder (nocturia)
  • Difficulty passing urine – this includes a weaker flow, not emptying your Bladder completely and straining when starting to empty your bladder
  • Urgency
  • Blood or semen in your urine

This article originally appeared on Daily Express :: Health Feed
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Britcoin? UK considers developing digital sterling as cash payments decline

The Bank of England said it would team up with the UK Treasury to explore a potential national virtual currency as Britain eyes joining the crypto-frenzy that has gripped state regulators across the world.

The taskforce will coordinate work on a possible “Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)” that could be used by both households and businesses, and would exist alongside cash and bank deposits.

“Our vision is for a more open, greener, and more technologically advanced financial services sector,” the UK Treasury chief Rishi Sunak told a fintech conference.
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“And if we can capture the extraordinary potential of technology, we’ll cement the UK’s position as the world’s preeminent financial center,” the state official added.

The CBDC taskforce is expected to look at use cases, opportunities and risks of a potential “digital pound.”

The decision comes amid a progressive decline in cash payments, partially as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Just one in ten payments in Britain is expected to be made with traditional paper money by the end of this decade.
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“The world is going the way of digital currencies and we have to find a place for them in the mainstream,” said Anne Boden, founder and chief executive of app-based Starling Bank, as quoted by AP.

Virtual currencies for use on the national level are currently being explored, and even implemented by several countries. China is close to becoming the first major economy to do so.

Earlier this month, the Bank of Japan announced that it had begun experiments to study the feasibility of issuing its own digital currency, while the Bank of Russia revealed a concept for the digital ruble, pledging to create the prototype by the end of 2021. Top US officials are reportedly mulling the idea of creating a digital dollar.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section


This article originally appeared on RT Business News

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms: Three ‘efficient predictors’ of the condition developing

In rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system targets affected joints, which leads to pain and swelling. Prior to the condition developing, signs you’re at risk at may surface. Research published in The Journal of Rheumatology identified the most predictive indicators of the condition developing.
In the French study, 372 patients were studied to identify early arthritis.

The researchers found the presence of swollen joints, morning stiffness and bone erosions were “the most efficient predictors of future development” of rheumatoid arthritis.

As the disease progresses, symptoms often spread to the wrists, knees, ankles, elbows, hips and shoulders, explains the Mayo Clinic.

“In most cases, symptoms occur in the same joints on both sides of your body,” says the health body.

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As it explains, about 40 percent of the people who have rheumatoid arthritis also experience signs and symptoms that don’t involve the joints.

These include:

  • Skin
  • Eyes
  • Lungs
  • Heart
  • Kidneys
  • Salivary glands
  • Nerve tissue
  • Bone marrow
  • Blood vessels.

Am I at risk?

There are several things that may increase your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

According to the NHS, there’s some evidence that rheumatoid arthritis can run in families, although the risk of inheriting it is believed to be low as genes are only thought to play a small role in the condition.

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Other possible risk factors include:

  • Hormones – rheumatoid arthritis is more common in women than men, which may be because of the effects of the hormone oestrogen, although this link has not been proven
  • Smoking – some evidence suggests that people who smoke have an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Can it be treated?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis but there are proven ways to alleviate symptoms.

Exercise can seem off-putting if you are experiencing joint problems but it has been shown to offer direct benefits.

Research shows that exercise helps to relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and improve day-to-day functioning.

Swimming is a particularly beneficial exercise for easing rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

The Arthritis Foundation (AF) explains: “Aquatic exercises are especially gentle on painful joints because water helps to support your weight, which reduces joint stress, and exercising in warm water helps to reduce stiffness.”

According to the AF, water also provides a natural resistance so you can get an aerobic and strengthening workout.

The health body adds: “Use water weights for more of a challenge.”

As the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) points out, if you are new to exercise, it is important that you start slowly in order to train your system to cope.

“Try to get plenty of sleep in order to cope with daily activities,” advises the NRAS.

“You should expect to experience some muscle soreness when you start new exercise regimes; this is quite normal and is a sign that your muscles are adapting to the new activity.”

If you need more guidance, a physiotherapist is a good person to advise you on suitable types of exercise, adds the NHS.

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‘Catastrophic consequences for people’s lives’: Debt crisis looming for developing world due to Covid response, UN chief warns

The world faces severe problems of debt sustainability in the wake of the coronavirus crisis that have not been properly understood or addressed, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Financial Times.

“The response to Covid and to the financial aspects [of the crisis] has been fragmented, and geopolitical divides are not helping,” Guterres said, adding “It has been too limited in scope and too late.” 

According to him, the fact that only six countries defaulted on their foreign debts last year – Argentina, Belize, Ecuador, Lebanon, Suriname and Zambia – created the “illusion” of stability and a “misperception of the seriousness of the situation.” 

The UN chief pointed out that large, middle-income developing countries such as Brazil and South Africa had borrowed heavily from domestic lenders rather than from foreign investors, at interest rates much higher than those available to rich countries. This makes the dangers less visible than in previous emerging market debt crises, he said. 
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In failing to address debt sustainability, “the risk is that we compromise the recovery of the economies of the developing world with catastrophic consequences for people’s lives, with an increase in hunger and poverty and dramatic problems with health and education systems, in many cases leading to instability, social unrest and, at the limit, conflict. Everything is now interlinked,” said Guterres.

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According to the World Bank estimates, around 120 million people have been pushed into poverty by the Covid-19 crisis, with the majority of the “new poor” in middle-income countries. The UN previously warned that over 200 million people could be driven into extreme poverty by the severe long-term impact of the coronavirus pandemic, bringing the total number to more than one billion by 2030.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section


Covid UK latest: Exposure to pollen could increase a person’s risk of developing COVID-19

A study published in PNAS, looked at how higher airborne pollen concentrations correlated with an increased COVID-19 infection.

Exposure to airborne pollen enhances susceptibility to respiratory viral infections, regardless of the allergy status, noted the study.

It continued: “Pollen exposure weakens the immunity against certain seasonal respiratory viruses by diminishing the antiviral interferon response.

“We found that airborne pollen, sometimes in synergy with humidity and temperature, explained, on average, 44 percent of the infection rate variability.

“Infection rates increased after higher pollen concentrations.”

The study concluded that pollen can be a factor in exacerbating COVID-19.

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China pledges to build ‘Polar Silk Road’ by developing Arctic shipping routes

Beijing has announced this week its intention to construct a “Polar Silk Road” and actively participate in the development of Arctic and Antarctic regions as part of its new 2021-2025 “five-year plan.”

According to the plan published on Friday, China would “participate in pragmatic cooperation in the North Pole” and “raise its ability to participate in the protection and utilization of the South Pole.”

The plans to extend the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative to the Arctic by developing shipping routes were announced back in 2018. China said at the time that it wanted to create new freight routes linking Asia and Europe via the Northeast, Northwest and Central Passages of the Arctic, which raised concerns about the fragile environment of the region. It also said it would encourage enterprises to build infrastructure and conduct commercial trial voyages, paving the way for Arctic shipping routes that would form a “Polar Silk Road.”
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Land territories in the Arctic cover an area of around 8 million square km, with sovereignty belonging to Russia, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Canada and the United States. The Arctic Ocean is more than 12 million square km, and the countries that border it, along with other nations, share maritime rights and interests according to international law.

Despite being a non-Arctic state, China is increasingly active in the polar region. It became an observer member of the Arctic Council in 2013. The country has a major stake in the Russian Yamal liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, which is expected to supply China with four million tons of LNG per year.
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At the end of last year, China also announced plans to launch a new satellite to track shipping routes and monitor changes in sea ice in the Arctic. It plans to launch the satellite in 2022.

Focused on trade-boosting infrastructure projects along the path of the ancient Silk Road, the Belt and Road Initiative aims to connect China to Europe, the Middle East and beyond.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section