President Obama: US Moral Obligation for Bomb Clean-up

President Obama says the United States has a “profound moral and humanitarian obligation” to support efforts to clear bombs its forces dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War.

Eighty million cluster munitions did not explode, instead settling on farmland and around villages, only to later kill or injure 20,000 people.

Obama spoke of that legacy as he visited a center in Vientiane called the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) that offers treatment for survivors.

“Here in Laos, here at COPE, we see the victims of bombs that were dropped because of decisions made half a century ago and we are reminded that wars always carry tremendous costs, many of them unintended,” he said.

Obama stressed that wars impact countless people beyond the famous who appear in history books.

“Above all, acknowledging the history of war and how it’s experienced concretely by ordinary people is a way that we make future wars less likely.”

His comments came a day after announcing a doubling of U.S. funding over the next three years to help the survivors and bomb-clearing efforts.

Obama was also due to hold a town hall meeting later Wednesday with young people involved in a U.S.-sponsored leadership program.

Tuesday he reassured nations in the Asia Pacific region that the U.S. strategic rebalance “will endure for the long-term” because it “reflects fundamental national interests.”

In a speech in Vientiane, Laos, Obama said there is widespread recognition in the U.S. that the Asia Pacific region “will become even more important in the century ahead, both to America and to the world.”

The president addressed an estimated 1,000 people in Lao National Cultural Hall, one day after making history as the first sitting U.S. president to visit the country.

Against a backdrop of flags representing the U.S., Laos and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Obama spoke to a group that included government officials, Lao and U.S. business leaders, students, civil society leaders and women’s groups.


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