Obama announces $90 million to clear Laos’ unexploded bombs

Updated 4:04 AM EDT, Tue September 6, 2016
laos secret war andrew stevens_00014124.jpg
laos secret war andrew stevens_00014124.jpg
Now playing
02:47
Inside Laos' 'Secret War'
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07:  A visual representation of the digital Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin on December 07, 2017 in London, England. Cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Lightcoin have seen unprecedented growth in 2017, despite remaining extremely volatile. While digital currencies across the board have divided opinion between financial institutions, and now have a market cap of around 175 Billion USD, the crypto sector coninues to grow, as it continues to see wider mainstreem adoption. The price of one Bitcoin passed 15,000 USD across many exchanges today taking it higher than previous all time highs.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07: A visual representation of the digital Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin on December 07, 2017 in London, England. Cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Lightcoin have seen unprecedented growth in 2017, despite remaining extremely volatile. While digital currencies across the board have divided opinion between financial institutions, and now have a market cap of around 175 Billion USD, the crypto sector coninues to grow, as it continues to see wider mainstreem adoption. The price of one Bitcoin passed 15,000 USD across many exchanges today taking it higher than previous all time highs. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:07
Bitcoin has an energy problem
Now playing
05:18
Anderson Cooper explains how he overcomes being shy
Now playing
01:32
Scientists turned spiderwebs into music and it sounds like a nightmare
Kristina Barboza
Now playing
03:09
Grieving mom's advice to other families: You can try to help, support and love
Jeopardy Productions, Inc.
Now playing
01:02
Aaron Rodgers' Green Bay Packers question stumps 'Jeopardy!' contestants
Now playing
02:35
WWII veteran: End of the war was 'the biggest thrill of my life'
Now playing
05:18
Coinbase CFO: We're an on-ramp to the crypto economy
CNN
Now playing
02:12
'Too dangerous to do anymore': Sacha Baron Cohen on Borat
Christopher Hamilton
Now playing
01:01
Volcanologist shares what he prefers to cook on lava flows
John Avlon 0413 Wallace
CNN
John Avlon 0413 Wallace
Now playing
03:31
Avlon compares Tucker Carlson's comments to George Wallace
screengrab hong kong oscars
IMDB / Field of Vision
screengrab hong kong oscars
Now playing
02:50
Hong Kong won't air Oscars for the first time since 1968
Now playing
01:27
See the first community of 3D-printed homes
Burlington, MA Headquarters
Nuance
Burlington, MA Headquarters
Now playing
01:34
Microsoft to buy AI company Nuance
Now playing
02:50
Sleep doctor tells Anderson Cooper how long a power nap should be
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 01: Chairman of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell testifies during a Senate Banking Committee hearing about the quarterly CARES Act report on Capitol Hill December 1, 2020 in Washington, DC.  Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also testified at the hearing. (Photo by Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Images)
Susan Walsh/Pool/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 01: Chairman of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell testifies during a Senate Banking Committee hearing about the quarterly CARES Act report on Capitol Hill December 1, 2020 in Washington, DC. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also testified at the hearing. (Photo by Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:06
Fed chief: The economy is about to grow more quickly

Story highlights

Obama's announcement includes money to locate and clear US bombs in Laos

More than 80 million cluster bombs could still remain in the country

(CNN) —  

President Barack Obama said Tuesday that US has an “obligation” to help Laos recover from a brutal secret bombing campaign that destroyed parts of the Southeast Asian nation.

During an address to the Lao people in the country’s capital, Obama pledged $90 million in a joint three-year project with the country’s government to clear tens of millions of unexploded US bombs.

“Villages and entire valleys were obliterated,” during US bombardments, Obama said. “Ancient plains were devastated. Countless civilians were killed. That conflict was another reminder whatever the cause, whatever our intentions, war inflicts a terrible toll, especially on innocent men, women and children.”

Obama is beginning a three-day stop in Laos. He’s the first US president to visit to country.

The money Obama pledged Tuesday will be spent surveying the Asian nation for some 80 million unexploded cluster bombs dropped during a secret US bombing campaign as part of the Vietnam War 40 years ago.

“The remnants of war continue to shatter lives here in Laos,” Obama said. “Many of the bombs dropped never exploded. Over the years thousands of Laotians have been killed or injured, farmers tending fields, children playing. The wounds, a missing leg or arm, last a lifetime. That’s why I’ve dramatically increased or funding to remove these unexploded bombs.”

The move was welcomed by Laos President Bounnhang Vorachit as a way of strengthening mutual trust after the devastating campaign, that still maims or kills 50 people who stumble upon unexploded mines each year. In return, the Lao government pledged to ramp up assistance in locating and returning of Americans missing in war.

Efforts to find the bombs will be aided the Pentagon, who will supply records of where they were dropped.

Between 1964 and 1973, US warplanes rained more than two million tons of bombs on Laotian villages and countryside to try and cut off the Vietnamese army’s supply trail.

To this day, less than 1% of the bombs have been cleared, according to US-based non-government organization Legacies of War.

US funding for clearance of unexploded ordnance and victims’ assistance has steadily grown since 2010, when Congress mandated that the US government give at least $5 million for unexploded ordnance removal.

This year, Congress allotted $19.5 million, but now, for the first time, an American president has publicly recognized that the US has a responsibility to do more.

“That conflict was another reminder that whatever the cause, whatever our intentions, war inflicts terrible toll, especially on innocent men, women and children,” Obama said. “Today I stand with you in acknowledging the sacrifices on all sides of that conflict. From the anguish of war, there came an unlikely bond between our two peoples.”