Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is in Laos from today until Thursday for the Asean and East Asia summits, said the Prime Minister's Office yesterday.
The Asean meetings in the capital Vientiane will be attended by leaders of all 10 Asean member countries and they will discuss a range of initiatives, including cooperating closely during disasters.
Today, at the 28th Asean Summit, they will focus on Asean Community building efforts, especially ways to implement the Asean Community Vision 2025, which is a milestone agreement to further integrate the region economically as well as through close political, security and socio-cultural cooperation in the next 10 years. The agreement was reached last year at the leaders' summit in Kuala Lumpur.
Today, the focus will be on Asean Community building efforts, especially ways to implement the Asean Community Vision 2025.
At the 29th Asean Summit tomorrow, the leaders will discuss Asean's external relations and future direction as well as exchange views on regional and international issues of common interest and concern.
Key topics likely to come up include the threat of extremist terrorism and maritime issues in the South China Sea.
The leaders will also take two major steps today.
They will launch the master plan on Asean Connectivity 2025, which is a blueprint to improve transport, logistics and IT links, among others, as well as the Initiative for Asean Integration Work Plan III, which sets out how more-developed members can help new members in their development efforts.
The 10 countries have also pledged to work on initiatives to encourage the flow of skilled labour across borders, and eliminate trade barriers. In addition, they will sign an agreement to coordinate more closely disaster management and emergency response.
The pact is called the "Asean Declaration on One Asean, One Response: Asean responding to disasters as one in the region and outside the region".
There will be other meetings following the summits as leaders of eight countries that have close partnerships with the grouping will be in Laos this week, too. They are: Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the United States. Asean leaders will hold several meetings with their counterparts from these countries.
Tomorrow, Asean and China will commemorate 25 years of dialogue at the 19th Asean-China Summit.
On Thursday, all 18 leaders will come together at the 11th East Asia Summit.
PM Lee will be accompanied by Mrs Lee, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and senior officials from the Foreign Ministry.
Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean will be Acting Prime Minister in PM Lee's absence.