The Latest: Obama: US Interest in Asia Not a Passing Fad

Laotian President Bounnhang Vorachit, right and U.S.President Barack Obama stand as the national anthems are played at Presidential Palace in Vientiane, Laos, Tuesday, Sep 6, 2016. President Obama met with Laotian President Vorachit on the first visit to the Southeast Asian country by a sitting American president. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)


VIENTIANE, Laos (AP) — The Latest on President Barack Obama’s trip to Asia (all times local):

3:30 p.m.

President Barack Obama says the U.S. commitments to the Asia-Pacific region will endure over the long term.

He says in a speech to about 1,100 people that American interest in the region “is not a passing fad” and “we’ve sent a clear message that as a Pacific nation, we are here to stay.”

Obama’s project to shift U.S. diplomatic and military resources from the Middle East to Asia has been dubbed his Asia pivot.

Obama says Asia-Pacific is home to more than half the world’s population and will become even more important in the century ahead.

He says that’s why he has “worked to rebalance our foreign policy so the U.S. is playing a larger role in the Asia-Pacific region.”


2:15 p.m.

President Barack Obama says the United States has a moral obligation to help Laos heal and that the U.S. wants to help the Lao government invest in its people.

Obama is recounting the nine-year “secret war” that the U.S. conducted in Laos during the Vietnam War. He says American warplanes dropped more bombs on Laos than fell on Germany and Japan combined during World War II.

He also says it’s important to recognize the suffering by all sides in that conflict and that war inflicts a terrible toll whatever the cause.

Obama is speaking to about 1,100 people at the Lao National Cultural Hall as he becomes the first U.S. president to visit Laos.


1:55 p.m.

President Barack Obama is offering a luncheon toast to “the dignity and the future” of the people of Laos.

Obama and the Lao president clinked glasses of red win during their lunch at the presidential palace in Vientiane.

The menu included deep-fried bacon roll stuffed with minced prawn, braised duck breast and deep-fried Mekong fish.

Obama and the other guests watched a dance performance by 10 women in traditional red and pearl skirts, draped shirts and gold headbands. The dancers twirled their hands in the air in a slow, rhythmic dance.


1:30 p.m.

The Obama administration says it will commit $90 million over the next three years to clear unexploded bombs the U.S. dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War.

The announcement came Tuesday during President Barack Obama’s visit to Laos.

Millions of unexploded cluster bombs remain in the Laotian countryside from a nine-year U.S. covert bombing campaign that was aimed at cutting off communist forces in neighboring Vietnam.

The White House says the U.S. has contributed $100 million to the effort in the last 20 years. Annual deaths fell from more than 300 to fewer than 50 in that period.


1:15 p.m.

President Barack Obama says he wants to forge a partnership with Laos to make the two countries “whole again” after troubled relations dating to the Vietnam War.

Obama is on a historic visit Laos to heal war wounds and reinvigorate relations with a country with rising strategic importance to the U.S.

Obama has been greeted by a military band, traditional dancers and a tropical rain.

Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in the impoverished, landlocked country.