Relations between the United States and the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic was the focus of the seventh annual Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue conducted recently in Vientiane.
Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel led the U.S delegation, which included officials from the U.S. Departments of State and Defense and the United States Agency for International Development.
During their discussions, Assistant Secretary Russel and Lao Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Sengphet Houngboungnuang agreed that the U.S.-Lao relationship is stronger than ever. Both officials discussed the importance of the upcoming visit to Laos of President Barrack Obama in September, which will be the first ever visit by a U.S. President.
In addition, they discussed Laos’ current role as chair of ASEAN and the opportunities the country will have when it welcomes world leaders for the ASEAN Regional Forum and East Asia Summit this year.
Assistant Secretary Russel reconfirmed U.S. commitment to work with Laos on sensitive issues rooted in the past, including the clearance and disposal of unexploded ordnance (UXO). He noted that unexploded ordnance removal is critical both to the lives and livelihoods of Lao citizens as well as the country’s economic development, and the United States will continue to support Laos in addressing this issue. U.S. and Lao officials also reviewed progress towards locating the remains of personnel missing from the Indochina conflict period.
U.S. and Lao officials agreed on goals for a comprehensive U.S. development assistance program in Laos, valued at nearly $50 million. Vice Minister Sengphet thanked the United States for its support of Laos’ Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in nutrition, health, education, trade, and justice. He also discussed the benefits of U.S. assistance for Laos’ ASEAN Chairmanship year, which includes training of officials in policy related issues, summit logistics, and English language.
U.S. and Lao officials also reviewed broader regional and global developments.Assistant Secretary Russel emphasized the commitment of the United States to constructive and beneficial relations with Laos and ASEAN, indications of the importance the United States places on the broader Asia Pacific region.