Obama's Visit to Laos the First for Sitting President
He acknowledges secret war, pledges money to clear bombs
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 6, 2016 6:29 AM CDT
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President Obama speaks at the National Cultural Hall in Vientiane, Laos, on Tuesday.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(Newser) – President Obama did something on Tuesday that no other US president has done: He visited the tiny nation of Laos. And while he did not explicitly apologize for America's secret bombing of the nation during the Vietnam War, he acknowledged it and said the US has a "moral obligation to help Laos heal," reports the AP. The big headline-making move was his announcement that the US would give Laos $90 million to help clean up unexploded bombs that continue to plague the country decades after the war. Obama is there for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations forum, and the Wall Street Journal notes that the centerpiece of his Asia policy continues to be the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact currently stalled in Congress. Related coverage:

  • CNN takes a deep dive into the issue of the unexploded bombs, which make vast swaths of farmland unusable.
  • Landlocked Laos has long been defined by its geography: Surrounded by China, Vietnam, and Thailand, its "basic diplomatic interests are to seek alliances with all of them and make sure no one country has hegemonic control," explains the New York Times in a primer.
  • Its reliance on China in particular means Laos "faces a tightrope walk" as it warms up to the US, explains the South China Morning Post.
  • Marketplace looks at how tiny Laos could be an economic ally to the US.
  • Elsewhere at the summit, Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte eased off his personal insult of Obama.