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Visit to Japan, Thailand and Laos.



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MEDIA RELEASE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ALEXANDER DOWNER

FA93 22 July 2005

VISIT TO JAPAN, THAILAND AND LAOS

I will visit Japan, Thailand and Laos from 24 to 30 July for talks with bilateral and regional counterparts and to visit the Australian pavilion at the Aichi World Expo.

My visit to Japan from 24 to 26 July will provide an opportunity to highlight the success of our pavilion, which Japanese publications have consistently rated in the top five out of 121 national pavilions and has been visited by over 1.6 million people. While at Aichi, I will also address the Third Australia-Japan 1.5 Track Security Dialogue being held at the Australian Pavilion.

In Thailand, I will meet the Deputy Prime Minister, HE Dr Surakiart Sathirathai, and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, HE Dr Somkid Jatusripitak on 26 July. This will provide an opportunity to discuss a range of issues mutual interest, including the implementation of the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) and the Agreement on Bilateral Cooperation (ABC).

My visit to Laos from 27 July will include meetings with the Laos Prime Minister, HE Bounnhang Vorachit, and the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, HE Somsavat Lengsavad. These meetings will underscore the growing significance of our bilateral relationship and highlight the contribution Australian investment is making to Laos’s development.

While in Vientiane, Laos, I will also attend the ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference (PMC) on 28 July and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) on 29 July. Australia became ASEAN's first dialogue partner over thirty years ago and our habit of dialogue and cooperation has evolved into a strong, mature and diverse relationship. A focus of discussions at this year’s PMC will include the first East Asia Summit to be hosted by Malaysia in December.

As the region’s principal security dialogue forum, the ARF meeting is an important event on Australia’s foreign policy calendar. This year, Ministers will address critical security challenges, including terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

I look forward to ARF’s adoption of a statement on information and intelligence exchange cooperation to combat terrorism and transnational crime as a clear expression of the ARF’s resolve on this important issue. It will also be important that the ARF reflect strong regional concern about the DPRK by sending a clear and consistent message. Ministers will also address a wide range of non-traditional security issues and are expected to give renewed prominence to the issue of disaster relief.

Media inquiries: Kali Graham (Ministerial) 0439 072 688 Chelsey Martin (Departmental) 6261 1555

Media releases and speeches are available from DFAT via the internet. http://www.dfat.gov.au/