This month, the United States and Laos celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations: ties that commenced soon after Laos declared its independence in 1954. Despite relations being downgraded during the wars in Indochina, the two countries never cut their lines of communication. And with the full restoration in 1992, of U.S.-Lao diplomatic relations, and despite different political systems, the United States and Laos have cooperated in a number of important areas of common interest.
These include counter-narcotics; strengthening the regulatory framework and trade capacity of Laos; HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment; improving health care and child nutrition; and a commitment to ensuring a prosperous and sustainable future for the Mekong sub-region.
But going as far back as 1975, the initial focus of the bilateral relationship was clearing unexploded ordnance from the Vietnam war. The effort continues to this day. Just over the past 20 years, the United States has invested more than $80 million in supporting Laos to safely clear these explosive remnants of war.
Today, although Laos is still governed by a one-party communist regime, its economy is essentially a free market system which took root in 1986, with the introduction of significant economic reforms. Thus, the main goal of the United States is to assist Laos to meet its development goals, improve governance and the rule of law, and increase its capacity to integrate fully within the Association for Southeast Asian Nations and the global economy.
Secretary of State Kerry recently said “The partnership between the United States and Laos also strengthens the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. I want to reaffirm the United States’ strong commitment to supporting Laos as it assumes the Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2016.”
“As we commemorate six decades of understanding and collaboration, we look forward to even deeper ties between our two countries as we build a peaceful and prosperous future.”