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Saudi King visits Japan, seeks help on diversifying economy

Saudi King (right), and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe review an honor guard before their meeting at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo on March 13

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 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 its heavy reliance on oil exports, and Salman is on a month-long tour of Asia to advance his kingdom’s economic and business interests.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Monday that Japan is willing to provide support for the economic power in the Middle East. “We will discuss growth strategy, including our ‘Saudi Vision’ project,” he said, referring to Japanese collaboration with Vision 2030, a roadmap adopted by the kingdom last year for its development and economic objectives He did not confirm reports that the countries would agree to set up a special economic zone in Saudi Arabia. Salman met with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and was to meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later Monday. Reports say Japan plans to urge that Saudi Aramco, the state-run oil company that is being partially privatized, seek a share listing on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. (AP)

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