Hillary Clinton’s visit historic for Laos-US relations

Published on July 12, 2012

Foreign Minister Dr Thongloun Sisoulith and his US counterpart Mrs Hillary Rodham Clinton have affirmed in their talks in Vientiane they will strengthen cooperative relations between the two countries, a press release said.

Mrs Clinton arrived in Vientiane yesterday on a short official visit to Laos at the invitation of Dr Thongloun. The landmark visit was the first ever by a high-ranking US leader to the country since the establishment of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic in 1975.

In their bilateral talks held at the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the two parties agreed to cooperate on the basis of mutual benefit, the press release from the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The two parties agreed to establish a Lao-US Chamber of Commerce and Industry in an effort to boost trade and investment.

Dr Thongloun, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, thanked the US government for its support for Laos’ application for membership in the World Trade Organisation. Laos expects to be granted membership in the near future, the press release said.

He expressed appreciation of the US government for having jointly signed trade agreements, removed Laos from the list of countries subject to a US trade embargo, and given loans to US investors to do business in Laos.

The two ministers also discussed cooperation on trade and investment as well as cooperation with the Mekong River Commission and the Lower Mekong Initiative.

The two parties agreed to further cooperate in searching for the remains of US service personnel missing in Laos during the Indochina war, which ended in 1975. They would also join forces to combat drug smuggling.

The two sides will cooperate to remove and destroy unexploded ordnance (UX O) from Lao territory. Statistics from the National Regulatory Authority for the UXO/Mine Action Sector in the Lao PDR showed that more than two million tonnes of bombs were dropped on Laos during the war, making it the country most heavily impacted by cluster munitions anywhere in the world. This figure also accounts for 50 percent of the total global use of these weapons.

Some 87,000 square kilometres of land including farmland are contaminated with UXO, which continues to injure and kill about 100 people each year.

The Lao government highly valued the US’s cooperation engagement in the Asia-Pacific region as well as within the Asean-US framework. Laos expressed the hope that the US engagement would be a ‘constructive contribution’ for cooperation and development in the two regions.

During her visit, Mrs Clinton called on Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong, visited the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise and the Ho Phrakeo museum, one of the must-see places in Vientiane and formerly an ancient temple built to house the Emerald Buddha, which was lost to invaders.

Mrs Clinton’s visit comes after Dr Thongloun paid an official visit to the US in July, 2010.

Later in the afternoon, Mrs Clinton and her delegation flew to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to attend the Asean Ministerial Meeting there.

Source: Vientiane Times
July 12, 2012