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John Kerry's visit deepens Laos-US ties

Laos and the United States have strengthened their bilateral ties, with US Secretary of State John Kerry ending a two-day official visit to Laos yesterday.

Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong ( right ) welcomes US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Mr Kerry's visit, made at the invitation of his Lao counterpart Mr Thongloun Sisoulith, came ahead of the planned trip to Laos by US President Barack Obama, which is scheduled to take place in September this year.

The US Embassy to Laos said the historic visits to Laos by the US leaders would ‘demonstrate a deepening relationship between the United States and the Lao PDR'.

Following his arrival in Vientiane on Sunday, Mr Kerry yesterday met with Mr Thongloun, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The ministry said in a press release that both sides discussed ways to deepen bilateral ties and cooperation between Laos and the US, as well as multilateral issues.

Agendas tabled at the talks covered the areas of further bilateral cooperation to clear unexploded ordnance (UXO) dropped on Laos during the Indochinese war.

They also discussed Laos-US engagement in areas including health care, nutrition, education, drug supervision and control, economics and trade and environmental protection as well as cooperation to continue searching for the remains of US soldiers missing in action in Laos.

In the area of multilateral cooperation, the Lao ministry said both sides further discussed the ‘Lower Mekong Initiative' cooperation framework.

The US has provided financial aid to Laos amounting to more than US$45 million a year. The US Embassy to Laos said Secretary Kerry highlighted the US commitment to partnering with Laos to improve nutrition across the country, including through the recently announced construction of the Lao-American Nutrition Institute in Vientiane.

Shortly after his talks with Mr Thongloun, Secretary Kerry called on Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong at the Government Office to discuss preparations for the US-Asean Sunnylands Summit, which will be jointly hosted by the United States and Laos, as 2016 Asean Chair, in California next month.

This unprecedented gathering – the first hosted by the United States with Asean leaders – builds on the deep partnership that the United States has forged with Asean since 2009, the US Embassy said.

The Lao ministry said Mr Kerry's visit also prepared for the planned visit to Laos by US president Barack Obama later this year to attend the Asean-US Summit.

Following the official meetings, Secretary Kerry visited Pha That Luang (That Luang Stupa), the national symbol of Laos, where he learned about Lao history and culture. Mr Kerry is the second Secretary of State to have visited Laos since the establishment of the Lao People's Democratic Republic in 1975. Then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made a one-day official trip to Laos in 2012.

 

By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
(Latest Update January 26, 2016)


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