National

Saudi Arabia eager to serve as window to Japanese culture

by Tomoyuki Tachikawa

Kyodo

Saudi Arabia is eager to become a gateway to Japan and its culture in the Middle East as it seeks to deepen economic relations between the two nations, the minister of culture and information for the kingdom, Adel Zaid Altoraifi, said Friday.

In an interview, he unveiled a plan for the state-run Saudi Press Agency to launch a Japanese-language website in December to promote information exchange between the two countries.

“Our relationship is not only about oil. It’s more than oil,” Altoraifi said, quoting Saudi Arabian Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as saying the kingdom considers Japan a “model” for reform in his country.

“We want to be the Arab gate for Japanese culture,” he said, expressing hope that Japan will also become more interested in the Arab world .

The 31-year-old deputy crown prince, who effectively runs Saudi Arabia, is known as a fan of Japanese culture including animation.

Tokyo and Riyadh signed an agreement Thursday to expand bilateral cultural exchanges, including translation of classics and significant books, as well as to promote reciprocal visits by artists.

Saudi Arabia has been trying to aggressively learn from Japanese technologies as the world’s biggest oil exporter has been forced to move ahead with economic structural reforms in the face of lower oil prices.

“Japan is very important for us” to develop the diversification of the Saudi economy, Altoraifi said, adding that one of his ministry’s goals is to import technology, including animation know-how, to promote economic growth.

Altoraifi accompanied the prince, who arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday after spending two days in China. The Saudi Arabian delegation is scheduled to return to China to attend the two-day meeting of leaders from the Group of 20 major economies starting Sunday in Hangzhou.

During his visit to Japan, the prince, a son of King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud, secured commitments from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to assist the Middle Eastern kingdom in its drive to achieve its economic growth strategy called “Saudi Vision 2030.” According to a government official, Abe told the deputy crown prince that Japan will contribute to the strategy in a variety of areas, including investment centering on manufacturing, the development of human resources, and the promotion of culture, the arts and sports.

Japan will also likely benefit by helping to promote the strategy. Doing so will give the nation’s firms a leg up in doing business in the kingdom at a time when it is privatizing state-owned entities.