Thang Long - Hanoi

US to step up cooperation with Lower Mekong
02/05/2013 | 11:19:51
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The US will prioritise stepping up its cooperation with the Lower Mekong basin region in the coming time, committing to continued efforts to push the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI).

US Acting Assistant Secretary of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Joseph Yun was addressing a seminar that sought ways to broaden cooperation in the framework of LMI in Washington DC on May 1.

The seminar, co-organised by the Vietnamese Embassy in the US and the US State Department, brought together officials from the Departments of Energy and Trade, USAID, and Exim Bank, the Ambassadors of ASEAN to the US and scholars.

Joseph Yun said LMI plays an important role in his country’s policy to restore balance in Asia while Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Pham Quang Vinh recognised the increasingly diversified and expanded LMI as an important effort in US-ASEAN relations.

The US official spoke of Vietnam’s role, including the part held the Vietnamese Embassy in the US , in accelerating the initiative, noting that his country is pleased with the initiative’s starting phase.

Initiated in 2009 by US President Barrack Obama and former State Secretary Hilary Clinton, LMI initially covered Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand and later included Myanmar in 2012.

Projects under the initiative are involved the fields of community healthcare, education, food and energy security.

The US has in recent time coordinated in carrying out projects to assess water resource use, build hydro-electricity plants, mitigate flood consequences, combat malaria and improve English training in the region.

On the sidelines of the seminar, Joseph Yun told the Washington-based Vietnam News Agency correspondent that the US State Department has, in its budget plan submitted to Congress, outlined an increase of 7.5 percent in funding for assistance programmes in Southeast Asia while decreased the source for other parts in the world.

He said US State Secretary John Kerry will hold a ministerial meeting with the Lower Mekong countries in his coming visit to the Asia-Pacific in June.

The official estimated that the US would spend 50 million USD performing its role and providing assistance to the region within the next three years.

Some participants noted that LMI is somewhat challenged by a degree of interest of the sub-region countries as their benefits, in particular food and energy security, are varied, citing the construction of dams on the Mekong River to support their view.

The Lower Mekong basin covers an area of 600,000 square kilometres where 60 million people are living, including 19 million in the Cuu Long (Mekong) River Delta of Vietnam.-VNA
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