Saudi King Salman, right, receives Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday. Photo: Saudi Press Agency via AP

Abe meets Saudi king amid tensions in Middle East


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Saudi Arabia for talks with King Salman on Sunday as part of a tour of oil-producing Gulf Arab states aimed at promoting peace amid a spike in tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

Japan has a deep alliance with the United States, but it also has ties with Iran, which until 2017 supplied Japan with about 5% of its crude oil imports. Japan has sought to remain politically neutral as tensions in the Persian Gulf have escalated following President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Security in the Persian Gulf's waters and for Mideast oil supplies is a national security priority for Japan, which imports nearly 90% of its oil from the Middle East. Much of that is shipped from Arab Gulf states through the narrow Straight of Hormuz, which Iran partly controls.

Japan plans to deploy naval forces, a destroyer and two patrol airplanes off the coasts of Yemen and Oman to help protect its energy supplies, while keeping away from directly patrolling the Strait of Hormuz as the U.S. does.

After arriving late Saturday evening in Riyadh, Abe was given a ceremonial welcome and hosted for lunch by King Salman Sunday afternoon. Abe also met with Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This marks Abe's third visit to Saudi Arabia as prime minister.

Saudi Arabia is Japan's top supplier of crude oil, accounting for about 39% of Japan's overall crude imports. Iran is unable to sell its oil internationally as it once did, due to U.S. sanctions by the Trump administration.

Over the summer, Japanese energy supplies became a target of rising tensions when two cargo ships were mysteriously hit off the Gulf of Oman. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, although others that summer were blamed on Iran, which has denied involvement.

The attacks on Japanese-related cargo in June took place while Abe was in Iran meeting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani. He'd traveled to Tehran as an interlocutor for President Donald Trump to ease tensions.

Concerns of a wider conflict have grown in recent days following a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad that killed Iran's powerful military commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Iran retaliated, striking two military bases in Iraq where American troops are stationed, though no casualties were reported. Amid the chaos and heightened threats, Iran acknowledged Saturday it had mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing all 176 people aboard.

Abe is scheduled to visit the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday and Oman on Wednesday, before departing back to Tokyo. In the UAE, he will meet with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and other leading Emirati figures. In Oman, Abe will hold talks with the country's new ruler, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, who was named on Saturday following the death of longtime ruler Sultan Qaboos.

Abe is travelling with a delegation that includes ministers responsible for boosting trade and business ties.

While in Saudi Arabia, he is scheduled to visit the desert region of Al-Ula, which the kingdom is touting as a tourism destination, and will reportedly met the Saudi crown prince there.

© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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I trust PM Abe as much as I trust my mum, that means a lot. I know, indeed, that I'll be thumbed down on this extremely anti-Abe website, but freedom of speech it is. I bet he will make something big out of this trip and I expect much more from him in the future.

-19 ( +2 / -21 )

Abe should not have met with Mohammed bin Salman. He should have politely declined. The crown prince is a murderer.

18 ( +20 / -2 )

Although I don't rate our PM, I am impressed with the willingness to dialogue with the terrorist nation of Saudi Arabia.

As repugnant as it is to some, talks are the way forward.

That said, lives must always take precedence over money.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

 a tour of oil-producing Gulf Arab states

Japan, Inc. is said by some to have started the Pacific War because the Japanese economy relied on burning oil and because of an oil blockade. For the last 80 years Japan, Inc. have known that Japan is resource poor and dependent on states like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iran, the US, Russia and others to provide gas and oil. Why haven't Japan, Inc., especially with Japan's highly educated scientists and technicians, come up with more ways to reduce the economy's dependence on burning fossil fuels? Could it be the fossils who've long run Japan Inc?

7 ( +11 / -4 )

That said, lives must always take precedence over money.

I don't think "lives" was the reason for Abe's visit. The ever so diplomatic Abe made a lightning visit and was in and out of Saudi Arabia before you can say "Khashoggi".

5 ( +6 / -1 )

that chair is going to tip over if he doesn’t sit in it properly

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Good job PM Abe!

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

The worst Prime Minister ever!

6 ( +9 / -3 )

The imported Iranian oil was low sulphur type for the use in power plants.

Oil is the primary energy import at 40% and the country needs to do more to find alternatives for oil and coal.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Sitting as though overwhelmed by the opulence and majesty of A master of material property.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

What’s up with the green flowers in the foreground?

Valentine come early for the Saudis???

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It is not only the Ghosn scandal, the Abe Cabinet are destroying Japan's reputation around the world, unbelievable !

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Although I don't rate our PM, I am impressed with the willingness to dialogue with the terrorist nation of Saudi Arabia.

But you're not impressed with Trump's willingness to do the same. What gives?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I bet he will make something big out of this trip and I expect much more from him in the future.

What big things will he make, cobber?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

What’s up with the green flowers in the foreground? Valentine come early for the Saudis???

LOL. Green is the symbol of heaven in Islam and the main color in the Saudi Flag.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Trump's willingness to do the same.

The USA sold a lot of weapons & military equipment to the Saud-led regime, while Japan up until today has a very restrictive exportation of such equipment down to the level of high tech component to produce them.

The hypocrisy level is very high indeed for Uncle Sam.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The Saudis pray for the day back that betrayed Saddam, Saddam was the only ones that could stop Iran .now Iran will rule the area in the near, Iran had almost 20 years to consolidate power, Saddam feared them, they feared, now everyone fear Iran

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What's up with the stack of celery bunches on the table?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Japanese may had it bad in Japan, but you would not want to get arrested by the vice police for showing a little skin or cleavage by accident

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Muppet meets murderer.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

With Japan ranking 121 on the world gender equality index and with the Saudis even worse and with Yemen the worst ranking makes you wonder if such a triumvirate has ever gathered in one place at the same time.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Most likely talking about kimono fashion.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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