Hanoi (VNA) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on May 28 he is planning to visit Laos in September to attend summits related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

At a meeting with Lao PM Thongloun Sisoulith in Nagoya, central Japan, the host also affirmed that Japan wants to further develop bilateral relations with Laos, according to Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan Hiroshige Seko.

Abe pledged that Japan will fully assist Laos toward the success of ASEAN-related summits the country will host in September and expressed his hope that Thongloun's leadership would enable ASEAN to reach a common voice on major regional issues.

Japan is ready to cooperate with Laos in fostering economic integration in five ASEAN member nations along the Mekong River, he said, saying it is crucial to the development of the region.

For his part, the Lao PM highly appreciated the continued expansion of the friendship and cooperation between Laos and Japan, and expressed his belief that the bilateral strategic partnership will further deepen and expand in a concrete way.

He offered his sympathies to those affected by devastating earthquakes that hit Kumamoto prefecture and neighbouring areas in southwestern Japan in April.

The Lao PM welcomed a recent increase in the number of Japanese investors in Laos and hoped for an early launch of direct flights between the two countries in line with a bilateral aviation agreement that came into force earlier this month.

According to statistics of the Japanese Government, Laos is now home to 126 Japanese investors, doubling the 2012 figure.

Lao PM Thongloun attended the extended G7 Summit, which ended on May 27 in Mie prefecture, as Chair of the 10-member ASEAN.-VNA