GZERO: North Korea and high speed missiles; China cuts African lending

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(More) hypersonic North Korea. There aren’t many things the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is good at, but its scientists do have a talent for building high-speed missiles. On consecutive days, North Korea launched what appeared to be two hypersonic missiles more advanced than the impressive weapon fired just last week, or the first hypersonic projectile Kim Jong Un tested in September. Tuesday’s version, fired into the sea about 435 miles off the country’s coastline, is estimated to have traveled at about 10 times the speed of sound and at a low altitude that makes it harder to detect than previous generations of missiles. Kim himself attended the Wednesday test in-person for the first time since the pandemic began. International reactions have been predictable; the US and Japan have condemned the launch, while China and Russia have called for an easing of sanctions to lower the diplomatic temperature. It’s an election year in South Korea, and we’re watching to see how the South Korean government responds to renewed pressure for inter-Korean talks.

China cuts Africa lending. China, Africa’s top lender, is taking a closer look at its lending policy on the continent. Xi Jinping announced last November that China will cut overall lending to the continent by one-third until 2024, as many African countries risk default due to COVID-induced economic crises. In the future, Xi also wants to prioritize cash for small businesses and green projects over more big infrastructure stuff, a riskier investment that can leave Beijing holding a bigger bag when debts go unpaid. China has long been accused of luring African countries into a “debt trap” by lending them cash with no political strings attached, but with fine print that allows Chinese companies to take control of strategic infrastructure — like Uganda’s Entebbe airport — if they get stiffed. What some view as

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