SPOTLIGHT: OBAMA VIETNAM PIVOT
Following last year's diplomatic breakthrough on Cuba and ahead of an unprecedented trip to Hiroshima, Japan, U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement this morning of an end to the longstanding weapons embargo on Vietnam can be quickly dropped into the "historic" file of his presidency. The presence of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, a Vietnam War veteran, in Hanoi added a touch of poignancy to the news.
Still, to observers of the region, the breakthrough is much more about the future than the past. The closer ties of the former enemies reflect simmering fears the two countries share about the extent of China's military ambitions. In some sense, the end of the embargo marks a symbolic late-term bookmark on Obama's declaration early in his presidency of Washington's diplomatic "pivot" towards Asia, and away from historic areas of focus in Europe and the Middle East.
On the eve of Obama's visit to the region, a sharply worded piece in the Singapore-based Straits Times from top Chinese diplomat Xu Bu offered a view of how Beijing sees Washington's presence in the region. American officials, Xu writes, "repeatedly made irresponsible remarks about China's policy, rendered support to the countries having disputes with China, and (have) gone even further to drive wedges between China and Southeast Asian countries." Yes, in Hanoi today, history was made — with plenty more to come.
BOMBS KILL MORE THAN 100 IN ASSAD STRONGHOLDS
More than 100 people have died in multiple bomb attacks in the Syrian coastal cities of Tartus and Jableh, two Syrian government strongholds, Reuters reports, citing the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks, the scale of which was "unprecedented", according to the head of the Observatory. This part of Syria had been largely quiet despite the chaos engulfing most of the country. Tartus is also home to a Russian naval base.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY
- Austrian election results (see below)
- First ever World Humanitarian Summit opens in Istanbul.