King Salman and hundreds of business leaders from Saudi Arabia are in Japan for talks Monday mainly expected to focus on economic ties. The visit is the first by a Saudi king in 46 years, though King Salman visited more recently as crown prince.
Saudi Arabia is one of Japan’s biggest suppliers of crude oil, accounting for about a third of its total imports of oil from the Middle East. The kingdom is striving to diversify its economy away from oil exports, and King Salman is on a month-long tour of Asia to advance his country’s economic and business interests.
One step is the privatization of the state-run oil company Saudi Aramco. Reports say Japan plans to urge that Saudi Aramco seek a share listing on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
Separately, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and Japanese telecoms provider and energy company Softbank have joined forces in setting up a $25 billion private fund for technology investments.
Trade between the countries fell overall last year as oil prices dropped. Japan’s 2.1 trillion yen ($18.6 billion) in imports from Saudi Arabia in 2016, mostly oil and gas, dwarfed its exports of 546.3 billion yen ($4.8 billion).
The delegation arrived late Sunday. King Salman’s stop in Japan follows visits to Indonesia and Malaysia. He is due to travel on to Brunei, China and the Maldives.
While seeking investment and help with Saudi industrialization and development of its services sector, King Salman has also offered help. Earlier, he pledged $1 billion in development finance for Indonesia and closer cooperation for combating transnational crime such as human trafficking, terrorism and the drugs trade.