The United States president, Barack Obama is in Laos this Wednesday. He is the first American president to visit the country while in office. He is attending a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Laos has the chair for the regional forum this year and is hosting the summit.
Obama Pledges US Aid
President Barack Obama acknowledged the effects of the Vietnam War on the region and paid tribute to survivors. The region still has 80 million unexploded bombs. Decades ago, during the war they fell over the small country of Laos.
Obama pledged American help to clean up the unexploded bombs. He toured a rehabilitation facility in Vientiane, where he spoke to survivors. There he said that the US a “profound moral and humanitarian obligation” towards Laos. That it was up to the United States to make sure that there will be no more bloodshed from the bombardments of many years ago.
“For the last four decades, Laotians have continued to live under the shadow of war,” Obama said. “The war did not end when the bombs stopped falling.”
The help provided by the US will come in the form of $90 million allocated through the course of the next three years. The United States has spent $100 million in the past 20 years on the same efforts. In return, the government of Laos said that it is going to boost efforts to find remains and provide details of Americans that have been missing since the end of the war.
The Obama Doctrine in the Region
The message from the Obama administration was that the president was not on an apology tour. The hope is that a partnership when it comes to getting rid of the bombs will be a step forward in the relationship between the two countries.
Patching up relations with Laos just another of the items on Obama’s agenda that pays special attention to the region. The president has made concerted efforts over the past year to bolster relations with countries in South East Asia. Obama said in a statement that America is a Pacific country. And on several occasions reaffirmed a diplomatic commitment to the region.
Asia is very important to the Obama doctrine as the president tries to pivot resources and attention away from the Middle East and into Asia. A priority for the US is having a strong position in developing markets in the area and a strong position there that counter-balances China.
This Tuesday the Obama administration had to deal with an unforeseen event. They had to call off a meeting that was on the schedule for Tuesday. The meeting was with president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte. The Philippines is a treaty ally of the United States. But the meeting was cancelled nevertheless after the Filipino president used a vulgar word, in reference to the American president.
The administration filled the empty slot with a meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Showing solidarity, after North Korea had fired three missiles into the sea the other day. Obama promised to collaborate with the United Nations on tightening sanctions against the Pyongyang regime.
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