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Vietnam’s President Nguyễn Xuân Phúc Arrives In Laos To Boost Two Countries’ Special Friendly Ties – OpEd

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Vietnam and Laos are not only good neighbors but also two special countries in Southeast Asia which have a great friendship, special solidarity and comprehensive cooperation between them.

In an effort to boost these solid and trusted ties, Vietnam’s new dynamic President Nguyễn Xuân Phúc arrived in Vientiane, Laos, on Monday (Aug. 9) on a two-day official friendly visit. 

It will be Phúc’s first visit to Laos as Vietnam’s President. He is leading a big delegation.

During his two-day visit, he will hold bilateral talks with the General Secretary of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) Central Committee and President of Laos, Thongloun Sisoulith, in Vientiane.

Both leaders will witness the signing of many important cooperation documents in the areas of justice, anti-drug, search and rescue operations and business deals.

Both Phúc and. Sisoulith are new to their respective posts. The Vietnamese leader assumed his post on Aug. 5, 2021, while his Laotian counterpart assumed his post on March 22, 2021. Sisoulith speaks fluent Vietnamese.

Both Vietnam and Laos have an amicable and trusted relationship on three levels: close relations between the two countries, party-to-party relations, and friendly relations between both countries’ people. The Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), the ruling party in Vietnam, and the Laos’ ruling party LPRP are comrades that had fought together against American troops during the Vietnam War. They share the same values, ideology and maintain a close relationship to this day. 

Vietnam is currently the third biggest trading partner and foreign investor of Laos, just behind Thailand and China.

Vietnam has invested US$4.23 billion in 413 projects in Laos so far.

On June 6 this year, Vietnamese Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son and his Lao counterpart Saleumxay Kommasith met on the side-lines of the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers Meeting, which was part of the celebration of the 30th Anniversary of Dialogue Relations between China and ASEAN, in Chongqing, China.

During this meeting, both ministers discussed the gamut of bilateral relations and designed the future direction of their ties, including the implementation of transport infrastructure projects. 

Being a landlocked country, Laos relies on Vietnam, which has world-class ports, for external trade. Most of Laos’ exports and imports pass through Vietnamese ports. Lao-Viet International Port, or also known as Vung Ang Port, is an important port for Laos. Both countries are well connected through road and railway links.

Actually, Laos’ President Sisoulith was officially invited by CPV’s General Secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng and President Phúc to visit Vietnam from June 28-29, 2021. It was also Sisoulith’s first overseas trip as Laos President.

It is going to be a clear signal to show their solid friendship that both presidents are visiting each other countries in the same year.

The main purpose of Sisoulith’s visit was to affirm both countries’ foreign policies and preserve great friendship, special solidarity and comprehensive cooperation. 

Both countries consider close cooperation in national defense and security and external affairs as an important pillar of the bilateral ties. The cooperation and interaction at various levels is deep and frequent, which is why both countries consider themselves as brothers.

Many agreements were signed during Sisoulith’s visit. Special attention was paid to cooperation in personnel training in transport and construction; the energy industry; education and training; and people-to-people diplomacy. Vietnam has also helped Laos in many ways to contain the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

“The visit to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam reconfirmed the consistent intention and desire of the Party, government and entire Lao nation in cherishing and sustaining the goodwill of the tradition of the deepened, strong relationship, mutual trust, and purity of the rare relationship between the Lao and Vietnamese nations, which the great President Ho Chi Minh, beloved President Kaysone Phomvihane and President Souphanouvong built together,” stated a news release from the LPRP Central Committee’s External Relations Committee after the historic visit. 

Phúc’s historic visit to Laos comes at a crucial time.

China, the new hegemon, is aggressively trying to disrupt close and trusted relations between Laos and Vietnam and gain influence in Laos through loans, trade and several Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects. 

China is also very aggressive in claiming more than 90 percent of the South Sea (SCS) based on an illegal Nine-Dashed Line map. Vietnam is the second biggest claimant in the SCS. Vietnam is a peace-loving and law-abiding country, which demands all claimants of the SCS, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, China and Taiwan, to follow the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and sign a legally-binding Code of Conduct (COC) to prevent conflicts and reduce tensions in the SCS.

Both Laos and Vietnam are members of ASEAN. Vietnam is making efforts to work with Indonesia to unite all ASEAN countries to take a common stance on the SCS and the COC. Laos will become ASEAN’s rotating chair in 2023.

During his visit, Phúc may ask Laos to follow ASEAN principles to respect international rules and maintain regional peace and security.

In March, Vietnam financed $111 million worth of new parliament building and gave it to Laos as a friendly gift. 

In the economic sector, both Vietnam and Laos are making efforts to boost bilateral trade. Presently, bilateral trade stood at $1 billion. 

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Veeramalla Anjaiah

Veeramalla Anjaiah is a Jakarta-based senior journalist and the author of the book “Azerbaijan Seen from Indonesia

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