July 17, 2023
TOKYO – The government is preparing to establish a foreign ministerial-level strategic dialogue with Saudi Arabia and hold foreign ministers’ meetings on a regular basis between Japan and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a group of six Persian Gulf nations, in an attempt to strengthen ties with oil-producing nations and ensure a stable supply of energy.
The envisaged strategic dialogue is a framework to discuss policies in a wide range of areas, such as diplomacy and economy, from a medium- and long-term perspective. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar from Sunday to Wednesday.
In connection with a meeting between Kishida and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, scheduled for Sunday, the two governments are expected to agree on the establishment of the strategic dialogue. Japan plans to send Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi to Saudi Arabia in September for the first meeting of the bilateral strategic dialogue.
As for holding Japan-GCC foreign ministers’ meetings on a regular basis, Kishida is likely to propose the plan when he meets with GCC Secretary General Jasem Al-Budaiwi on Sunday.
Saudi Arabia, the largest exporter of crude oil to Japan, plays a leading role in OPEC Plus, which comprises the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries plus Russia and others. The GCC is headquartered in Saudi Arabia and its members include the UAE and Qatar, both of which also export crude oil to Japan.
Saudi Arabia, a leader of the Sunni Islamic world, is an ally to the United States. But China is expanding its influence in the Middle East, as it mediated an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, a major Shiite Islamic state, to normalize diplomatic relations in March this year.
Japan wants to strengthen economic and security ties with Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region through the strategic dialogue and regular foreign ministers’ meetings, aiming to contain the influence of China. The oil-producing countries, seeking to reduce their dependence on oil and diversify their economies, expect Japan to provide technological cooperation.