The Latest: Obama reflects on implications of war in Laos

AP News
Posted: Sep 08, 2016 6:16 AM
The Latest: Obama reflects on implications of war in Laos

VIENTIANE, Laos (AP) — The Latest on President Barack Obama's historic visit to Laos (all times local):

5:05 p.m.

President Barack Obama says a determination to defeat communism in Southeast Asia may have led U.S. policymakers to not think carefully enough about the implications of their decisions.

He says the U.S. was on the "right side of history" during the Cold War. But he says dropping millions of cluster bombs on Laos may not have been the best way to win over the Lao people's hearts and minds. He says the consequences of decisions made by the U.S. during the Vietnam War didn't necessarily serve America's interests.

The U.S. carried out an intense bombing campaign over Laos to cut off communist forces in neighboring Vietnam. Millions of bombs that didn't explode are jeopardizing farming and development in Laos.

In Laos, Obama announced the U.S. will spend $90 million over three years to help clean up the unexploded bombs.


4:50 p.m.

President Barack Obama is hitting back at Donald Trump for the Republican's frequent criticism of Obama's foreign policy.

Speaking at a news conference in Laos on Thursday, Obama says he continues to believe Trump isn't qualified to be president and that "every time he speaks, that opinion is confirmed."

Trump has blasted Obama's policy toward China as weak and said the president was humiliated by the Chinese during his visit to Asia this week.

Obama tells reporters in Laos that he thinks diplomacy is "serious business" and that Trump's ideas are often "contradictory" and "outright wacky."


4:45 p.m.

President Barack Obama says he's not ready to concede that the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will remain open when he leaves office.

He says aides are still "working diligently" to shrink the prisoner population. About 60 prisoners are being held there, down from hundreds.

Obama set a goal early in his presidency of closing the prison, but he's been blocked by Congress. He says the facility is unnecessary, is too expensive and serves as a recruitment tool for terrorist organizations. He says he hopes that by continuing to shrink the population, Americans will start to ask about the expense.

Obama spoke at a news conference after he attended a pair of regional summits in Laos.


4:40 p.m.

President Barack Obama is wrapping up his last trip in Southeast Asia as president by describing it as an opportunity to deepen connections with the world's fastest-growing region and he hopes his successor will sustain America's engagement.

Obama is wrapping up a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Laos. He says "this is where the action will be" in terms of commerce and trade.

Obama notes that he has told the region's leaders that he is committed to advancing a free trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He says the U.S. will also standing with allies and partners in upholding freedom of navigation and flights in international spaces.

Obama says the leaders also are united in expressing grave concerns about recent ballistic missile launches by North Korea.


3 p.m.

President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are holding face-to-face talks on the margins of a regional summit in Laos.

There was no immediate word on what topics the leaders would be discussing, but reporters were allowed in at the start to watch them shake hands for the cameras. Obama and Modi have focused on climate change in their past meetings, so it was likely they would discuss further it during the East Asia Summit.

Obama opened his two-country visit to Asia last Saturday by joining Chinese President Xi Jinping to formally commit their countries to a global climate change agreement. Many of the world's nations agreed to the pact during a summit late last year in Paris.


11:30 a.m.

President Barack Obama says the U.S. wants to work constructively with Southeast Asian nations to lower tensions with China in the South China Sea.

At a meeting in Laos of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Obama says a recent U.N. tribunal ruling against China is binding and clarifies the maritime rights issue.

Obama says he realizes the ruling raised tensions. But he says the U.S. wants these disputes to be resolved peacefully and will keep working to help make that happen.

Obama says the U.S. wants to build on its partnership with Southeast Asia and to promote a "rules-based order" in the region. He says the U.S. will also keep pushing for completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal. That deal is awaiting ratification in the U.S. Congress.