Here are a few stories about Hillary Clinton’s visit to Laos today:
The AP touches on the U.S. “pivot” to the region, Southeast Asia’s strategic importance, and the ongoing effects of unexploded ordinance in Laos, among other issues:
Hillary Rodham Clinton became the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Laos in more than five decades, gauging whether a place the United States pummeled with bombs during the Vietnam War could evolve into a new foothold of American influence in Asia.
Clinton met with the communist government’s prime minister and foreign minister in the capital of Vientiane on Wednesday, part of a weeklong diplomatic tour of Southeast Asia. The goal is to bolster America’s standing in some of the fastest growing markets of the world, and counter China‘s expanding economic, diplomatic and military dominance of the region.
Elsewhere, Bloomberg reports:
Hillary Clinton became the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit Laos in 57 years today, and plans to push for more studies on a $3.6 billion hydropower dam on the Mekong River opposed by neighboring countries.
The Wall Street Journal said yesterday:
Hillary Clinton’s visit to Laos on Wednesday will be the first by a U.S. secretary of state in 57 years, and it comes at a crucial time: The small, landlocked nation is taking on growing importance as it is pulled deeper into China’s orbit.
The trip to Vientiane, following a stop by Mrs. Clinton in Hanoi, reflects U.S. efforts to rebuild alliances in Southeast Asia at a time when Beijing is rapidly expanding its influence in the region.
Laos, a small, landlocked nation, has fewer residents than New York City, with a population under seven million. It also has the smallest economy in Southeast Asia, with annual output of about $7 billion, versus about $125 billion for Vietnam, its eastern neighbor.
But Laos has significant untapped mineral resources and a growing consumer market. It is also becoming a more important player in some of the region’s geopolitical issues, especially tensions over territorial rights in the resource-rich South China Sea, where China, Vietnam, the Philippines and several other countries have overlapping claims.