Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Saudi Arabia this weekend comes at a time of both challenges and opportunities for the Kingdom and Japan.
The Japanese prime minister’s visit takes place against a backdrop of rising tensions in the Middle East. During Abe’s last visit, in 2013, our two countries agreed to strengthen defense and security cooperation. We welcome Japan’s commitment to supporting the freedom of navigation for commercial shipping in the region. Open and safe shipping routes are critical for both our economies. A stable and secure Middle East is a shared priority.
This year will see Saudi Arabia host the G20 for the first time. My first year as ambassador in Tokyo coincided with the Japanese presidency of the G20. As the many Saudi visitors to Japan in the last year will testify, Japan did a superb job and set a high standard for future presidencies. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said he wants to continue Japan’s good work, in particular by promoting multilateral consensus.
For the world’s media, the main G20 leaders’ meeting in November will be the focal point of our presidency. But the G20 program goes well beyond the leaders’ meeting and the year presents chances for us to strengthen our wider relationship. The many other G20 events, which will take place across the year in all four corners of the Kingdom — such as the C20 on culture, the Y20 on youth, and the B20 on business — will give Japanese visitors the chance to experience the breadth and depth of Saudi Arabia for the first time. People-to-people connections are vital as we deepen the relationship between our two countries.
It has never been easier for a Japanese business to enter the Saudi market, or for a Japanese tourist to visit the Kingdom.
I am excited that Prime Minister Abe will this weekend have the chance to see for himself a Kingdom that has transformed since his last visit. Under the stewardship of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed, Saudi Arabia is undergoing huge change, anchored in our ambitious Vision 2030 reform program. The Kingdom is becoming more economically diverse, more socially open, more culturally confident, and more welcoming to the world.
Traditionally, the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Japan has been underpinned by energy, with Saudi Arabia supplying 40 percent of Japan’s energy needs. And Japan will always be able to rely on Saudi Arabia as a responsible and reliable energy exporter. But we have much bigger ambitions for the relationship. With the changes we have made over the past three years, it has never been easier for a Japanese business to enter the Saudi market, or for a Japanese tourist to visit the Kingdom. Whether Japanese businesspeople want to set up shop in our country or Japanese tourists want to see our incredible world heritage sites, our message is: Come to Saudi Arabia and make the most of the new opportunities. Japanese visitors can be sure of a warm welcome.
It has been my great honor to represent my country in Japan over the past year. I was privileged to witness the ascension to the throne of Emperor Naruhito and the beginning of the era of “Reiwa,” or “beautiful harmony.” In the coming year, Japan will host the Olympic Games and I know they will be a spectacular success.
The year 2020 also marks the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Japan. In the years since 1955, our relationship has grown in importance for both countries and it continues to do so.
There will be much to discuss during Abe’s historic visit. On the Saudi side, we are excited at the prospect of working with the prime minister to further strengthen our friendship with one of our oldest and most trusted allies.
- Nayef Alfahadi is Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Japan