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Saudi Arabia's King Salman begins Japan visit together with mammoth delegation

Kyodo

King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia and his large delegation began a four-day Japan visit Sunday, marking the first trip to the country by a Saudi king in 46 years.

Salman is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and have a lunch with Emperor Akihito during his stay in Japan, according to the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo.

Arriving at Tokyo’s Haneda airport Sunday evening, the Saudi king was welcomed by Crown Prince Naruhito. Approximately 10 aircraft were required to transport the huge delegation to Japan, a local government official said.

To prepare for the mammoth group accompanying the king, including members of the Saudi royal family and ministers, over 1,000 rooms at high-end hotels in Tokyo have been reserved as well as some 500 limousines hired, a Saudi government source said.

In his meeting with Abe, Salman is expected to seek Japan’s cooperation in boosting private-sector investment in the Middle Eastern country.

The king’s son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, agreed with Abe in Japan last August to work together on a set of reforms called “Vision 2030,” which could yield economic benefits for Japan. The crown prince also doubles as defense minister.

Saudi Arabia, the largest supplier of crude oil to Japan, is pursuing structural reforms to reduce its economy’s heavy dependence on oil amid a slump in crude prices. The initiatives include a planned partial privatization of state-run oil giant Saudi Aramco.

The Japanese government is planning to urge Saudi Arabia to include the Tokyo Stock Exchange among the bourses on which Saudi Aramco shares will be listed.