August 31, 2016

FROM ONE VICTORY TO THE NEXT:

As Obama heads to Laos, signs of a tilt away from China (Marius Zaharia, 8/30/16, Reuters)

[D]iplomats say Obama could be pushing on an open door in Laos, thanks to a change of government there in April.

They say the country's new leaders appear ready to tilt away from Beijing and lean more closely toward another neighbor, Vietnam, whose dispute with China over the South China Sea has pushed it into a deepening alliance with the United States.

"The new government is more influenced by the Vietnamese than the Chinese," said a Western diplomat in Southeast Asia." "It's never too late for a U.S. president to visit."

Obama will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit landlocked Laos, where the United States waged a "secret war" while fighting in Vietnam, dropping an estimated two million tonnes of bombs on the country. About 30 percent of the ordnance failed to explode, leaving a dangerous and costly legacy.

Laos has strategic importance to both Vietnam and China. Vietnam has a long land border with Laos that gives it access to markets in Thailand and beyond. For China, Laos is a key gateway to Southeast Asia in its "new Silk Road" trade strategy.

Laos, which is developing a series of hydro power plants along one of the world's longest rivers, the Mekong, aims to become "the battery of Asia" by selling power to its neighbors.

Posted by at August 31, 2016 7:26 PM

  

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