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Japan, Laos seek security dialogue framework

VIENTIANE, Laos, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- Japan and Laos will try to develop a framework for their foreign and defense officials to discuss security issues, the countries' prime ministers said Sunday.

"I would like to come to a mutual understanding [with Laos on various issues] through dialogue between our foreign and defense officials," Kyodo News reported Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters after the summit.

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In a joint statement issued at the end of Abe's visit to Vientiane, he and Laotian Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong said they also agreed to cooperate in Laos' infrastructure development and poverty reduction efforts, Kyodo said.

Abe's trip to Laos, following a similar trip to Cambodia, completed the Japanese leader's visits to all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations since assuming office last December in an effort to strengthen ties with these countries. The visits came amid Japan's rising tensions with China stemming from various issues, including a territorial dispute over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which Beijing also claims.

China's growing military power and its aggressive claims in the South China Sea also have raised concerns in the some of the ASEAN countries about maritime security.

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"As a driving force of the global economy, [ASEAN] is a friend of Japan and vital in revitalizing the Japanese economy," Abe told a news conference in the Laotian capital after the summit. He said working with ASEAN countries on their economic development would also benefit Japanese companies and the Japanese economy.

Other members of the ASEAN are Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar (formerly called Burma), the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Abe said his country's security policy calls for promoting "proactive pacifism" for global peace and stability, Kyodo reported.

The joint statement said the two leaders urged parties to abide by international law to peacefully settle disputes.

In Phnom Penh, Abe and his Cambodian counterpart, Hun Sen, said in a joint statement that they "underscored the importance of settling maritime disputes by peaceful means in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law ... ."

Cambodia has close ties with China.

Abe and Hun Sen also agreed that Japan will utilize its advanced medical technologies and systems to help improve health and medical care in Cambodia. The Cambodian leader expressed the hope "to see the participation of Japanese companies in the development of advanced urban infrastructure in the medium to long term."

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