Saudi Arabia's King Salman ends month-long Asia tour in China after bolstering ties

Nandini Krishnamoorthy
China's President Xi Jinping and Saudi Arabia's king Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud is heading back to the kingdom from China after completing his month-long tour of Asia. He visited Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and China, bolstering ties and pledging to strengthen economic cooperation.

The countries he visited are some of the world's biggest importers of oil from Saudi Arabia. He aimed to promote investment opportunities in the kingdom during his tour, including the sale of a stake in his country's state oil company, Saudi Aramco, Reuters reported.

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While in China, Salman signed $65bn (£52bn) worth deals when he met Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday (16 March). Saudi Arabia has sought to increase its oil sales to China, also the world's second-largest oil market, after losing some of its market share to Russia in 2016.

"Both countries are willing to raise their level of cooperation in the oil sector, including supplying Saudi oil to the continuously growing Chinese market," the two countries said in a joint statement issued on Saturday (18 March).

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"Both sides stress the importance of stability in world oil markets to the global economy ... China appreciates Saudi Arabia being a safe and dependable oil supplier to the world market, and the role it plays in ensuring the stability of the global oil market," China's official Xinhua news agency reported.

Although China is very reliant on Saudi for oil, it has traditionally played very little role in the Middle East conflicts and diplomacy. But Salman told Xi during their meeting that he hoped Beijing could play a greater role in the region's affairs.

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Prior to visiting China, the king travelled to Indonesia, where his trip garnered much attention for the luxury goods he took with him. He went to Indonesian capital Jakarta with 459 tonnes of luggage and equipments, including two Mercedes-Benz S600s and two electric lifts.

It was the first such visit by a Saudi king to the world's largest Muslim populated country since 1970.

Salman's Asia tour came at a time when the kingdom is said to be working keenly towards diversifying its economy, having launched an ambitious Vision 2030 economic reform plan since his accession in 2015.

As part of his itinerary, the king was supposed to visit the Maldives on Saturday (18 March). However, it got postponed due to a local outbreak of flu, Reuters noted.

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