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Japan PM: Saudi Arabia an Important Partner - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, right, escorts Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, second right, upon his arrival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday, May 1, 2013. (AP Photo)

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, right, escorts Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, second right, upon his arrival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday, May 1, 2013. (AP Photo)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe wrapped up a visit to Saudi Arabia yesterday, after saying that the kingdom represents an important regional partner for Japan.

The Japanese premier’s trip, which will also include the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, is aimed at strengthening economic links between Japan and various Middle Eastern states, as well as seeking markets for Japanese technology.

In an interview with Arab News during his trip, Abe said: “I am seeking to establish a comprehensive partnership with the Middle Eastern countries during this visit … We consider Saudi Arabia a very important partner in Japan’s energy security.”

Saudi Arabia is the biggest exporter of oil to Japan. A Tokyo-based senior economist at JP Morgan, Masamichi Adachi, told Voice of America Radio that Abe’s trip was focused on securing Japanese energy supplies after the 2011 tsunami.

He said: “[Abe’s trip] is all related to energy. Japan is now facing big headwinds from the accident at the nuclear power plants, and that means Japan needs to import more energy. Therefore, we want more cheap energy.”

In an effort to secure the relationship, Abe and his aides said that they want to increase the scope for cooperation between Japan and Saudi Arabia.

Accordingly, Abe and Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and their aides also discussed other issues, including cooperation in tackling security problems like maritime piracy.

Masaru Sato, a spokesman for the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that Japan was seeking diversify the links between the two states.

He told reporters: “We want to go beyond energy diplomacy. We want our relationship to be all encompassing. Saudi Arabia is a regional power, and we want to synchronize our policies in the region with that of Saudi Arabia.”

Abe himself, speaking at King Abdulaziz University, said that it was time for a new chapter in the relations between the two states.

He said: “Long gone are the days when bilateral relationships were defined by a one-way street, with you selling oil on one end and us buying your oil on the other end.”

“Making a leap beyond conventional business boundaries, Japan and the Middle East will make yet another leap beyond our business-centric connections by strengthening our ties in politics, as well as in security,” he added.

Abe will continue his visit to the region in the UAE today, before concluding the trip with a visit to Turkey.