World: Cockpit of Conflict

Little besides geography links the four countries that make up modern-day Indochina—Cambodia, Laos, North and South Viet Nam. For 20 centuries, neither foreign conquerors nor home-grown dynasts have ever managed to persuade the peoples of the verdant, fertile peninsula to collect themselves into a single nation. Indeed, long before the present struggle engulfed them, their differences had led to a history of prolonged and tangled conflicts.

The most constant influence on the area's life, of course, has been China, where the forebears of most present-day Indochinese lived before migrating south centuries before Christ. On all too many occasions, the Heavenly Emperors...

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