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Saudi Crown Prince MBS Postpones Japan Trip Amid Concerns About Saudi King’s Health

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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman postponed a planned four-day trip to Japan due to concerns over the king’s health, Japan’s top government spokesman Yoshimasa Hayashi said.

The trip set to start Monday was to have been the crown prince’s first visit to Japan since 2019. Hayashi said at a regular news briefing in Tokyo the two nations would reschedule the visit, without indicating when.  

The kingdom’s de facto ruler was due to meet Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during the trip, according to Japan’s government. MBS, as the Saudi crown prince is known, was also expected to meet Japanese companies and sign an agreement to strengthen supply chains for liquid hydrogen, Japanese media reported.

News of the cancellation came after the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported that Prince Mohammed’s father, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz, is suffering from inflammation of the lung and will be receiving antibiotics at Al Salam Palace in Jeddah.

Theresa May Attends The First Arab-European Summit - Day One
King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia during talks with then U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May at the first Arab-European Summit, in Egypt on Feb. 24, 2019.Dan Kitwood—Getty Images

MBS, who handles most day-to-day affairs in the kingdom, is next in line to the throne.

The crown prince had also planned to visit Japan in late 2022, but the trip was canceled shortly before he was scheduled to arrive.

Saudi Arabia and Japan will go ahead with a business forum on Tuesday in Tokyo, with Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman and Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih attending from the kingdom’s side, according to Japan’s trade ministry. There will be a panel covering the strengthening cooperation on manufacturing and possible collaboration on entertainment and gaming, among other things.

Green energy, tech

Japan and Saudi Arabia have been forging deeper ties in recent years. Kishida traveled to the kingdom in July and announced the launch of an initiative on green energy projects, including hydrogen and ammonia. He also urged the crown prince to increase investment in semiconductors and batteries. 

Technology has recently been an emerging area of cooperation, with Saudi Arabia’s wealth fund among the largest shareholders in gaming giant Nintendo Co. The kingdom’s new investment firm, Alat, is partnering with SoftBank Group Corp. to construct a fully automated manufacturing and engineering hub to build industrial robots in Riyadh.

The countries in December held high-level official meetings, including one between Japan’s trade minister Ken Saito and his counterparts, to make progress on a “Saudi-Japan Vision 2030” agreement that’s meant to boost investment between the nations. 

The cooperation is part of the wider Vision 2030 agenda, Prince Mohammed’s plan to transform the Saudi economy by investing trillions of dollars in everything from tourism to electric vehicles and semiconductors.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman during the Arab Summit, Friday, May 19, 2023, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman during the Arab Summit in Jeddah on May 19, 2023.Saudi Press Agency via AP

Prior to news of the king’s deteriorating health condition, MBS met with U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Sunday to discuss the war in Gaza and the “nearly final version” of draft strategic agreements between Saudi Arabia and the U.S., SPA said.

The two countries are nearing a historic pact that would offer the kingdom security guarantees and lay out a possible pathway to diplomatic ties with Israel, Bloomberg has reported.

The crown prince also recently met with regional leaders including Jordan’s King Abdullah II on the sidelines of the 33rd Arab Summit in Bahrain.

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