Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong arrived in Tokyo yesterday 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.
Prime Minister Thongsing plans to hold an audience with Emperor Akihito and a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday, according to Japan’s 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,” Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said at the outset of a meeting yesterday with Prime Minister Thongsing that was open to the media.
Mr Kishida also thanked Laos for giving four Asian elephants to a zoo in the city of Kyoto last year to commemorate the 60th anniversary. The elephants were unveiled to the public last week.
Prime Minister Thongsing, 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 about 8 percent in recent years, Laos is called a “plus-one” country for foreign businesses to avert the potential risks of excessively concentrating operations in neighbouring Thailand and China.
Prime Minister Thongsing will address a business seminar on Thursday in Tokyo and Hiroyuki Ishige, chairman of the government-backed Japan External Trade Organisation, will give a briefing on JETRO’s activity in Laos, according to organisers.
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 advance connectivity for 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, a move that equips Tokyo with such accords with all Asean member states.
On July 4, Japan will hold a summit in Tokyo with five Asean states that lie along the Mekong River, at which 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. The five other Asean members are Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.
Source: Vientiane Times