Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao leaves for Laos, at the end of the week, to take part in a Southeast Asia summit that is held every three years.  The regional gathering is just one of several China has pursued in recent years, in an effort to build stronger relations with its neighbors.  Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.

The Greater Mekong Subregion includes the six countries along the 4,000-kilometer Mekong River, which starts in China, flows past Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, before reaching the South China Sea.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao goes to Laos, Saturday.   He will join other heads of state for the third Greater Mekong Subregion summit.  The grouping is sponsored by the Asian Development Bank and is aimed at enhancing regional cooperation.

One controversial issue has been use of the Mekong River, itself.  China already has two hydroelectric dam projects on the part of the waterway that flows through China.  A third, huge dam -- the Xiaowan Hydropower Station -- is to be completed in 2012.

Speaking to reporters in Beijing Wednesday, Assistant Foreign Minister He Yafei acknowledged there are disagreements with other countries about China's use of the river.

He says there have been media reports that China's upstream hydropower development is having a negative impact on downstream countries, especially environmentally.

He says China will never do anything to harm the interests of downstream countries and says Beijing is ready to have discussions on the issue.  But he also stresses that what he calls reasonable development of water resources will serve the interests of all countries in the region.

The two-day Greater Mekong Subregion summit begins Sunday.  One highlight will be the opening of the Lao section of a major highway that will link Bangkok to the southwestern Chinese city, Kunming.