During his recent visit to Japan at the invitation of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, Deputy Prime Minister of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic Sonexay Siphandone expressed his wish to include in his itinerary a visit to Okinawa. The visit to the island took place on Mar. 8th and 9th.
In a speech at a welcome dinner at a Naha restaurant hosted by Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga and Okinawa-Laos Friendship Association Chairman Yoshiya Sato, with some 40 guests in attendance, Siphandone stressed the strong relationship and bonds that exist between Laos and Okinawa. “People to people relationships are the most important, and we especially must increase exchanges between young people, because that’s the future,” Siphandone stated.
Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga also commented on the good relationship. “Laos and Okinawa have been very close for a long time, and the relationship is growing stronger by the year, and that’s the way we want it to continue,” Onaga said.
The relations between Laos and Okinawa go back to 1990 when Okinawan doctors sent a medical mission to Laos that was still suffering from a long period of wars. Specifically, doctors from Okinawa conducted corrective surgery free of charge on patients suffering from cleft lip deformity. So far about 250 patients have been successfully treated.
Other exchanges over the years include educational support and academic exchanges, which are continuing strong to this day.