A Buddhist monk poses next to unexploded bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in Xieng Khouang in Laos September 3, 2016.
Jorge Silva / Reuters

This week, U.S. President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Laos. In part, he made the journey to attend the annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This will be Obama’s 11th journey to Asia since he assumed office in 2009, and the attention he has paid to ASEAN—collectively, the world’s seventh-largest economy, and the United States’ fourth-largest trading partner—is at the heart of his strategic rebalance to the region.

But his visit to Laos, where he will spend several days in the capital city of Vientiane and

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