U.S. ‘Morally Obliged’ To Heal Laos War Wounds: Obama | Independent Newspapers Limited
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U.S. ‘Morally Obliged’ To Heal Laos War Wounds: Obama

Barack Obama
Posted: Sep 6, 2016 at 11:05 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

President Barack Obama pledged Tuesday to dramatically increase US efforts to clear millions of bombs secretly dropped on tiny Laos by American planes a generation ago, saying the clean-up was a “moral obligation”.

Laos became the world’s most-bombed country per capita from 1964 to 1973 as Washington launched a secret CIA-led war to cut supplies flowing to communist fighters during the Vietnam War.

Much of the country is still littered with ordnance, including millions of cluster munition “bomblets” that maim and kill to this day.

The issue has long dogged relations between the United States and Laos, a cloistered and impoverished communist nation.

But both sides have moved closer in recent years and Obama’s visit — the first by a US president to Laos — is being hailed as a landmark opportunity to reset ties.

On the first day of his two-day trip, Obama announced $90 million for Laos over the next three years to address the impact caused by unexploded ordnance.

“Given our history here I believe the United States has a moral obligation to help Laos heal,” Obama told a crowd of delegates, including communist party leaders, students and monks, during a speech in the capital Vientiane.

The figure dwarfs Washington’s previous commitments to Laos — in the last 20 years it had given a total of $100 million.

But it mirrors what happened in Vietnam as ties warmed between the two former foes during the early 2000s.

As in Vietnam Obama stopped short of issuing any kind of apology for American military action, but recognised the suffering it had caused all sides.

“The remnants of war continue to shatter lives here in Laos,” he said, adding many Americans were still unaware of their country’s secret carpet bombing of the country.

“Over the years thousands of Laotians have been killed or injured. Farmers tending their fields, children playing. The wounds, a missing leg or arm, last a lifetime.”