Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in Vientiane, Laos on July 11, 2012. This groundbreaking visit to Laos marked the first by a U.S. Secretary of State in 57 years. During her visit, Secretary Clinton met with Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong and other senior government officials to discuss a variety of bilateral and regional issues, including the Lower Mekong Initiative and ASEAN integration efforts. In remarks to U.S. Embassy staff and their families, Secretary Clinton said:
"When I met with the Foreign Minister, we traced the arc of our relationship, from addressing the tragic legacies of the past, to finding new ways to partner for the future. And through trips like this one, the United States is deepening our engagement in the Asia Pacific. We're practicing what I call forward-deployed diplomacy, using all of our diplomatic assets in a whole-of-government approach represented by so many agencies and departments in order to make our presence known and to be an effective partner.
"Now here in Laos, the past is always with us. I just finished touring COPE, a painful reminder of the legacy of the Vietnam War era. An estimated 80 million unexploded cluster bombs remain scattered across Laos, and they continue to kill or injure about a hundred people a year, which is good because that's down from several hundreds a year, but it still is unacceptable. And since 1995, the U.S. has provided nearly $59 million to help remove more than a million of these cluster munitions along with larger ordnance, clearing some 23,000 hectares of land that can now be used for farming or development. This year, we are increasing our financial commitment by $4 million, and I hope others in the international community will join us in our efforts to bring this legacy of the Vietnam War era to a safe end and give the people, particularly the children of this nation, the opportunity to live their lives safe from these unexploded bombs."
You can view photographs of the Secretary's visit to Laos and her tour of the Cooperative Orthotic Prosthetic Enterprise Center (COPE) in the above slideshow. Secretary Clinton is on travel to France, Afghanistan, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Egypt, and Israel. You can follow her trip on www.state.gov.