Saudi nuclear pact talks to start

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed Tuesday with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince to launch working-level talks aimed at negotiating an accord on acquiring Japanese nuclear technologies, a Japanese government official said.

“Japan is enhancing the safety level of its nuclear plants” following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, the official quoted Abe as saying in his meeting with Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

The two leaders also agreed to launch a security dialogue between their diplomatic and defense officials to enhance ties in those areas, the official said.

Abe’s visit to Saudi Arabia is the first by a Japanese prime minister since April 2007. He is on the second leg of a four-nation tour through Saturday that began in Russia and will take him to the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.

Abe asked the Middle Eastern nation to continue providing a stable oil deliveries amid rising demand for fossil fuels stemming from the Fukushima No. 1 power plant crisis, which has kept most of the reactors in the country offline over safety concerns, the official said.

Saudi Arabia is the biggest provider of crude oil to Japan, accounting for 30 percent of its imports in 2011.

Japanese utilities have increasingly burned fossil fuels to boost thermal power generation in place of nuclear power. But rising expenses for fuel imports, spurred by the weakening of the yen, have put pressure on their earnings and the country’s trade balance.