Saudi Arabia’s King Salman arrived in Tokyo today, making the first visit to Japan by a monarch from the oil-rich nation in nearly five decades.
The 81-year-old king, who was greeted by Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito at Haneda airport, will meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tomorrow and as he kicks off the Japanese leg of a broader tour of Asia.
Salman, who will visit 83-year-old Emperor Akihito on Tuesday, is travelling with a lavish entourage estimated at over 1,000 people.
Some 1,200 rooms at Tokyo’s luxury hotels have been booked by the delegation for the three-night stay through Wednesday, according to local media, which has also reported that hundreds of limousines have been brought into the capital to accomodate the visitors.
Saudi Arabia is the largest provider of oil exports for Japan, which relies on Middle East for energy to power the world’s third largest economy.
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Japan hopes to use the visit to widen its relations with Saudi Arabia and help the country’s efforts to diversify its economy, including exploring ways to increase Japanese investments in non-energy sectors such as manufacturing, according to officials.
King Salman’s arrival marks the first visit to Japan by a Saudi leader since the 1971 visit to Japan by then-King Faisal.
King Salman himself, however, last visited Japan in 2014 as a crown prince.
The king is on a month-long tour of Asia, which has already taken him to Malaysia and Indonesia.
After Japan, he is scheduled to visit China and the Maldives.
Maldivian opposition parties yesterday raised objections to the planned visit and warned that they would stage protests over reports that Saudi business interests were buying an entire atoll in the politically-troubled Indian Ocean republic.
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