National

Abe to visit Laos in September for ASEAN summit talks

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Saturday he is planning to visit Laos in September for summit meetings involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“I would like to pay an official visit to your country in September to take part in ASEAN-related summits,” Abe said in a meeting with Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith in Nagoya, part of which was open to the media. “I would like to further develop bilateral relations.”

Abe welcomed Thongloun’s official visit to Japan, especially as it came just a month after he took office. Thongloun attended an outreach session of the Group of Seven summit that ended Friday in Mie Prefecture as chair of the 10-member ASEAN group.

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

Thongloun offered his sympathies to those affected by the destructive earthquakes in Kumamoto Prefecture and neighboring areas in April.

In the meeting, Abe said Japan will “fully assist” Laos in holding a successful round of ASEAN-related summits the country will host in September, according to Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko, who briefed journalists about the meeting.

“The development of Laos is to ASEAN’s benefit, and the development of ASEAN is to Japan’s benefit,” Abe was quoted by Seko as saying. “Japan would like to extend as much support as possible so that ASEAN-related summits will yield good results.”

Abe expressed the hope that Thongloun’s leadership would enable ASEAN to speak with one voice on major regional issues such as China’s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea.

He said Japan is ready to cooperate with Laos in increasing economic integration in five ASEAN countries along the Mekong River. He cited higher connectivity as key to the region’s development.

Thongloun welcomed a recent increase in the number of Japanese investors in Laos, and expressed hope for an early launch of direct flights between the two countries in line with a bilateral aviation agreement that came into force earlier this month.

At present, the number of Japanese investors in Laos has doubled to 126 from the 2012 level, according to Japanese government data.