A state in northwestern Indochina. Formerly a kingdom of some influence, by the early 19th century Laos was under Siamese rule. In 1893, Siam renounced its claims, and in 1899, Laos became a French protectorate. During 1941-45, Laos was occupied by Japan. After World War II, Laos was reestablished as a kingdom (1947), under French protection. In 1953, it became independent within the French Union, and in 1956, it became fully independent. During the Vietnamese War, Laos maintained a precarious neutrality, with troops of both sides active within the country. With the U.S. withdrawal from Indochina, the neutralist regime collapsed, and in May 1975, the Lao Democratic People's Republic was established. During the past decade Laos has received substantial amounts of foreign investment and in 1997 joined ASEAN.