Next year, United State President Barack Obama is planning to visit the Southeast Asian country of Laos in order to attend a regional economic conference. In doing so, President Obama will become the first United States President to ever visit Laos.
While Laos is known for having a relatively poor economy, the country is said to be rapidly improving in this regard. The country was heavily bombed by the United States during the Vietnam War.
The announcement of President Obama’s upcoming visit was made by National Security aide Ben Rhodes, who also recently visited Laos. Rhodes has said that his own visit helped to start the process for Vientiane’s 2016 chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Later this month, President Obama will travel to Malaysia in order to participate in this year’s ASEAN Summit. President Obama says that it is important for him to attend because his administration wants to both boost the standing of the group, while also demonstrate the seriousness of an announced “pivot” between the United States and Pacific Asian countries.
Although the United States and Laos have a bitter past, the United States wants to do more to clear the tension that has been stuck between the two countries since the Vietnam War.
During the war, American warplanes dropped more than two million tons of bombs on Laos from 1964 to 1973. More than 580,000 bombing missions were aimed at disrupting supply lines between Laos and northern Vietnam.
Estimates show that 30% of these explosives failed to detonate, leaving a widespread area with potentially dangerous weapons. The United States has said that it wants to work to clear this area of lethal explosives.
Laos is historically the most heavily bombed country on a per capita basis.
President Obama has largely worked to improve relations between Laos and the United States, Meanwhile, the President has also worked on strengthening ties to Vietnam and Myanmar.