Reuters International

BEIJING (Reuters) - China and Laos have agreed to step up security cooperation after attacks on Chinese nationals in the poor, landlocked Southeast Asian nation in recent weeks, state media said on Wednesday as Laos' new president visited Beijing.

In March, six Chinese nationals were wounded in a bus shooting and a Chinese national was killed and three wounded in an attack by unidentified militants on a Chinese-backed company in another part of the country.

In January, two Chinese were killed and one wounded in a bomb attack on a bus.

In a joint communique released by China's official Xinhua news agency, both countries agreed to expand military cooperation, including personnel training and other forms of support.

China and Laos have also agreed to take "effective measures to earnestly protect the safety of each other's people, organisations and important projects", it added, without giving details.

The statement was released as Laos Communist Party chief Bounnhang Vorachit, appointed president only last month, was in Beijing to see Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Laos has close political ties to communist Vietnam and mirrors its political system.

But communist neighbour China has been vying aggressively for influence in Laos, providing loans, aid and infrastructure investment.

China sees Laos as an important route to Southeast Asian ports for landlocked parts of southwestern China such as Yunnan province.

Long-term plans call for a railway connecting Yunnan down to Singapore via Laos.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)

reuters_tickers

 Reuters International