A historic visit
March 6, 2021

In a historic meeting, Pope Francis on Saturday sat down with Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a revered figure in the country.

Al-Sistani doesn't often appear in public, but when he does, his words have reverberated across Iraq, The Associated Press notes. So there's a sense that his statement following a "very positive" conversation with Francis calling on Iraq's religious authorities to help protect the country's Christian minority, who he said "should live like all Iraqis, in security and peace with full constitutional rights," could go a long way. Francis, who traveled to Iraq to show support for its dwindling Christian community, thanked al-Sistani for raising "his voice in defense of the weakest and most persecuted."

When Francis arrived at al-Sistani's home, the cleric reportedly stood to greet the pope. Al-Sistani reportedly normally remains seated for visitors, so the gesture appears to be significant.

In response to the interfaith meeting between the two religious leaders, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi announced that March 6 is now a National Day of Tolerance and Coexistance in Iraq. Read more at The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

March 5, 2018

An American aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, arrived in Vietnam on Monday, becoming the first U.S. ship of its kind to visit the country since the close of the Vietnam War.

The Vinson's arrival at the port of Danang has been cast by Washington as a major point of progress for normalized relations between the United States and Vietnam. "The visit marks an enormously significant milestone in our bilateral relations and demonstrates U.S. support for a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam," said U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink, describing the two nations as changing from "former enemies to close partners."

But China is unlikely to see the Vinson's route in such friendly light. The carrier and its two escort ships together have a crew of 6,000 U.S. troops whose deployment in the disputed waters of the South China Sea is perceived by Beijing as a statement of American hegemony. Bonnie Kristian

December 27, 2016

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is scheduled to visit Pearl Harbor on Tuesday with President Obama in what will be the first such public visit by a sitting Japanese leader to the site of the 1941 surprise Japanese air attack that pulled the U.S. into World War II. They also will meet privately to discuss the U.S.-Japan alliance, which could be in for changes under President-elect Donald Trump, who has called for renegotiating U.S. trade deals and making allies like Japan pay more for their own defense.

Abe landed at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Monday to start his landmark visit, which comes after Obama's visit earlier this year to Hiroshima, the Japanese city hit with the first U.S. atomic attack at the end of the war in 1945. Harold Maass

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