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PM Lee to visit Vientiane for Asean summits

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SINGAPORE Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will be arriving in Vientiane on Monday night ahead of a three-day gathering of Asean leaders and their regional counterparts.

SINGAPORE Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will be arriving in Vientiane on Monday night ahead of a three-day gathering of Asean leaders and their regional counterparts.

At the top of their agenda at the 28th and 29th Asean summits and related summits will be what steps are needed to realise blueprints aimed at deepening regional integration. The meetings are held from Sept 6 to 8.

Other issues such as disaster relief, the South China Sea and trade arrangements will also be discussed among the Asean leaders and also their neighbours.

Mr Lee arrives in the Laotian capital from Hangzhou, China after attending the G-20 summit. He will be accompanied by Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan and senior officials from the Foreign Ministry. Mr Lee will also be accompanied by his wife Ho Ching for the visit.

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The Asean summits are scheduled to open on Tuesday - the first since the formal establishment of the Asean Community on Dec 31 last year. The next few days will see the 10 leaders discuss the "Implementation of the Asean Community Vision 2025 and the Way Forward".

The leaders will also launch the Master Plan on Asean Connectivity 2025 and the Initiative for Asean Integration Work Plan III. They are aimed at deepening integration and speed up development in the region.

In addition, they will sign a non-binding declaration on coordinating responses to disaster relief, titled "One Asean, One Response: Asean Responding to Disasters as One in the Region and Outside the Region".

Leaders from Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, the United States, and the United Nations will also be present over the next three days.

Making his first appearance as leader of the Philippines at the summits is Rodrigo Duterte. He is expected to hold bilateral meetings with other heads of government present.

The Asean leaders will commemorate the 25th year of Asean-China dialogue relations, even as territorial disputes in the South China Sea are simmering in the region.

US President Barack Obama's presence at the summits will also be closely followed. This visit will bookmark his legacy in pivoting the US towards Asia, as it will be his last major tour in the region before November's US presidential election.

A joint statement by leaders on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership on the last day will bookend the summits. This proposed free-trade agreement between the 10 Asean nations and six other countries, including China, is often viewed as an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership championed by the Obama administration, which excludes China.

Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister and Co-ordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean will be the Acting Prime Minister from Sept 6 to 8.

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