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Laos prime minister begins Japan trip

Kyodo

The prime minister of Laos, Thongsing Thammavong, arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday for a four-day official visit to commemorate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Japan and expand political and economic ties between the two countries.

Thongsing plans to hold an audience with Emperor Akihito and a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The visit comes as the two countries step up economic ties, with the number of Japanese investors in Laos doubling to about 120 late last year from the 2012 level, according to Japanese government data.

“We will make efforts to further upgrade the comprehensive partnership our nations have,” Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said at the outset of a meeting on Wednesday with Thongsing that was open to the media.

Kishida also thanked Laos for giving four Asian elephants to a zoo in the city of Kyoto last year to commemorate its 60th anniversary. The elephants were unveiled to the public last week.

Thongsing, in response, said his trip to Japan this year comes at a significant time and that he is “extremely happy to see that their comprehensive partnership is expected to be upgraded to a strategic partnership.”

Posting real economic growth of around 8 percent in recent years, Laos is known as a “plus-one” country for foreign businesses seeking to avoid potential risks from excessively concentrating their operations in neighboring Thailand and China.

Thongsing will address a business seminar on Thursday in Tokyo and Hiroyuki Ishige, chairman of the government-backed Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), will give a briefing on the group’s activity in Laos, according to organizers.

JETRO opened an office in Vientiane in April last year to strengthen information gathering and assist Japanese investors and prospective investors in Laos.

Japan aims to promote ties with Laos and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which have pledged to improve ties and further development as the 10-nation bloc moves to establish a more integrated ASEAN Community at the end of this year.

In January, Japan signed bilateral aviation agreements with Laos and Cambodia to allow airlines to operate regular direct flights between Japan and the two countries.

On July 4, Japan will hold a summit in Tokyo with five ASEAN states along the Mekong River at which the leaders are expected to craft a new strategy for Tokyo to contribute to sustainable development of the Mekong region beyond 2015.

The five Mekong states are Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

  • Nkajlo Vangh

    Well written article. Lao PM starts to do the right rip and right things for beloved poor Lao people. Hope for brighter light at the end of the tunnel. May Buddha be prayed. Sathou, Sathou.

    • Young Laos

      The Lao PM is just using Lao poverty as a pretext to garner Japanese sympathy and elicit Japanese aid money to line his own pocket and his cronies. Once Japan give financial aid, Lao PM Thongsing Thammavong will have to give his handler, the Vietnamese “special advisor” a cut of the foreign aid, yakuza or mafia style. What’s left of the money will be divided amongst Thongsing’s inner circle. The Lao people will get nothing.

      For Japanese foreign aid to truly benefit the actual poor Lao people, the aid projects MUST be administer by the Japanese themselves, b/c the Lao gov’t is too corrupt and inept to use the aid as intended. The Lao communist politburo, of which Thongsing Thammavong is a member represent less than 1% of the Lao population, but it plunders the Lao treasury and national resources for its own personal wealth.

      • Nkajlo Vangh

        Wonderful analysis. I typed the letter “t” repeatedly on my keyboard, but it never shwoed on my computer screen. I decided to finish the rest of the word “trip” and ended up with “rip.” I hoped that readers would assume that I made a typo error for “trip.” After reading Young Lao’s reply to my comment, I decided to looked up the word “rip” in an English dictionary; it says, “rip means fraud or swindle.” I felt relief that my comment was not far from Young Lao’s reply about President Chommaly’s trip to see Japan’s Emporer Hiroito.

        If I am not correct, my apology for the malfunction of my keyboard. If am right, thanks to the keyboard’s miracle!