Laos prepares to host Abe at summit

Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith. Source: Kremlin

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is planning a visit to Laos in September for Asean summits.

Abe welcomed Thongloun’s visit to Japan, coming just a month after he took office. Thongloun attended an outreach session of the G7 summit that ended on Friday in Mie Prefecture representing Asean as Laos holds the revolving presidency this year.

Leaders from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Chad joined the G7 to discuss Asian and African development issues.

“I would like to pay an official visit to your country in September to take part in Asean-related summits,” Abe after meeting Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith in Nagoya. “I would like to further develop bilateral relations.”

Thongloun said he “highly appreciates continued expansion of friendly cooperative relations between Laos and Japan”, adding that he was “convinced that the bilateral strategic partnership will further deepen and expand in a concrete way”.

Abe said Japan would “fully assist” Laos in holding the summits in September, according to Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko.

“The development of Laos is to Asean’s benefit, and the development of Asean is to Japan’s benefit,” Abe reportedly said. “Japan would like to extend as much support as possible so that Asean-related summits will yield good results.”

He said Japan was ready to cooperate with Laos in increasing economic integration in five Asean members on the Mekong River. He said increased connectivity would be key to regional development.

The Japanese premier said he was hopeful that Thongloun’s leadership would enable Asean to speak with a unified voice on major issues such as China’s adventures in the South China Sea.

Earlier this month, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida held talks with Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith to ask Vientiane to work to reduce tensions over the South China Sea issue.

Thongloun praised the recent arrival of Japanese investors in Laos and said he was looking forward to direct flights between Vientiane and Tokyo now a bilateral aviation agreement had been signed.

Japan has twice as many investors in Laos as 2012 with 126 citizens working in the country, according to Tokyo’s official data.