Saudi crown prince’s South Korea visit heralds ‘a new, future-oriented strategic partnership’

Special Saudi crown prince’s South Korea visit heralds ‘a new, future-oriented strategic partnership’
South Korea's Prime Minister Han Duck-soo welcomes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Seoul on Nov. 17, 2022. (SPA)
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Updated 21 November 2022

Saudi crown prince’s South Korea visit heralds ‘a new, future-oriented strategic partnership’

Saudi crown prince’s South Korea visit heralds ‘a new, future-oriented strategic partnership’
  • President Yoon Suk-yeol said the Kingdom is one of the key companions of Seoul’s economic and energy security 
  • The delegation signed 26 memoranda of understanding worth $30 billion, covering everything from railways to energy

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman concluded his official visit to South Korea on Thursday, having secured multiple trade deals and reaffirmed the long-standing relationship between both countries.

A number of officials, including Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman and Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif, accompanied the crown prince on his two-day visit, which followed his attendance at the G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia.

The crown prince held a number of meetings with South Korean government officials and business leaders, resulting in 26 memoranda of understanding worth $30 billion, covering railways, construction, petrochemicals, agriculture and energy.

 

During a meeting on Thursday with Yoon Suk-yeol, the president of South Korea, the crown prince thanked his hosts for their “warm reception and hospitality,” and lauded the success of the 60-year diplomatic relationship.

The crown prince said: “This visit to your friendly country coincides with the passage of 60 years since the establishment of relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Korea, which confirms the desire of our two countries to continue to consolidate the foundations of this historical relationship and work to complete efforts aimed at strengthening cooperation in all fields.

“The relationship between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Korea has witnessed great development over the past six decades, resulting in a fruitful strategic partnership for the two countries. 

“In order to preserve the gains of this relationship, we have always been keen to intensify consultation and coordination with your friendly country in order to achieve ambitious economic aspirations and build a better future for the region and the world in particular.”

SAUDI-SOUTH KOREATIES: KEY DATES

1962: Establishment of diplomatic relations.

1973: South Korea opens its embassy in Saudi Arabia. 

1974: Saudi Arabia opens its embassy in South Korea. 

1975: Saudi-South Korean Joint Committee established.

1998: Crown Prince Abdullah’s three-day visit to South Korea aimed at strengthening ties.

1999: Prince Salman’s four-day visit to South Korea to boost bilateral relations.

2016: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and then-President Park Geun-hye hold talks on the sidelines of G20 Leaders’ Summit in Hangzhou, China. 

2017: Saudi-Korean Vision 2030 launched. 

2019: Crown prince visits South Korea at the invitation of then-President Moon Jae-in.

Jan. 2022: Moon Jae-in visits Saudi Arabia.  

Jan. 2022: PIF, POSCO and Samsung C&T sign MoU on the sidelines of Saudi-South Korean Investment Forum in Riyadh to develop a green hydrogen project. 

Nov. 2022: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visits Seoul. 

As a part of the official visit, a Saudi Korean Investment Forum was hosted in Seoul by the Saudi Ministry of Investment on Thursday. The meeting was supported and attended by leading members of the Saudi Federation of Chambers and the Korean Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Among those in attendance were Khalid Al-Falih, the Saudi minister of investment; Faisal Al-Ibrahim, Saudi minister of economy and planning; Lee Chang-yang, South Korea’s minister of trade, industry and energy; and officials of related government entities and leading private sector companies from both countries.

The main presentation and discussion topics was energy and sustainability, with a panel session on “Future Clean Energy.” The forum also discussed Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification, localization and privatization efforts as well as manufacturing.




Saudi Crown Prince meets with a group of heads of Korean companies, reviews promising investment opportunities in various fields. (SPA)

In 2017, the two countries launched the Saudi-Korean Vision 2030, forming a joint committee of representatives from relevant government agencies to review the partnership, approve projects, and implement plans.

Vision 2030 is Saudi Arabia’s social reform and economic diversification agenda, launched in 2016 to help wean the Kingdom’s economy off hydrocarbons and to promote youth and women’s participation in new sectors, from leisure and tourism to renewable energy.

South Korea is among eight countries cooperating with the Kingdom to help achieve the aims of Vision 2030, working on 40 shared projects and initiatives.

The crown prince added: “In light of the great challenges our world is witnessing today, and in this regard we refer to the close cooperation within the framework of the Saudi-Korean Vision 2030, and we praise what has been achieved during it.

“We also follow with great interest the achievements of the joint committees between our two countries, and we look forward to raising the pace of investment coordination and strengthening partnership between the public and private sectors.”




Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and S. Korea's President Yoon Suk-yeol and their delegations meeting in Seoul on Nov. 17, 2022. (Bandar Algaloud/via SPA)

During the session, the crown prince said he is eager to deepen cooperation on hydrogen energy, carbon capture technology, and nuclear power.

He said: “I reiterate our thanks and appreciation to Your Excellency for your keenness to advance the relationship between the two friendly countries.”

In his own speech during the session, Yoon shared his enthusiasm to raise bilateral relations to a new level, commended the implementation of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan, and said he is looking forward to expanding and developing cooperation and investment. 

These areas of cooperation include defense industries, future energy, such as hydrogen, culture, tourism, and megaprojects like NEOM.

NEOM is a $500 billion venture initiated in 2017, which aims to develop sustainable smart cities covering 26,500 sq. km in Saudi Arabia’s northwestern Tabuk Province near the Red Sea. 




Among the areas of cooperation in NEOM include production of clean energy, such as solar, wind and hydrogen. (Supplied/file photo)

Yoon said Saudi Arabia is South Korea’s largest trading partner in the Middle East and is one of the key companions of Seoul’s economic and energy security.

In a tweet following their meeting, Yoon said: “Pleased to have had a milestone discussion today. Let’s keep working together to build a new future-oriented strategic partnership.”

The last time the crown prince visited Seoul was in 2019. The crown prince also met Yoon’s predecessor, former President Moon Jae-in, when he visited Saudi Arabia in January this year.

Touching down at Seoul Air Base on Wednesday, the crown prince was received by Han Duck-soo, the prime minister of South Korea. An official reception ceremony was held, during which the Saudi and South Korean anthems were played, and a guard of honor was inspected. 




Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman walks with South Korea's President Yoon Suk-yeol during a welcome ceremony in Seoul on Nov. 17, 2022. (Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Royal Court photo via SPA)

During talks, the crown prince and Han reviewed relations, prospects for bilateral cooperation, and ways to develop and enhance it in various fields. 

On Thursday, the crown prince also met a group of Korean business leaders to discuss promising investment opportunities in the Kingdom in various sectors, especially energy, technology, industry, construction, and smart cities. 

The markets reacted well to the crown prince’s visit, with the stock prices of Korean businesses in various sectors enjoying an upward trend during Thursday’s trading, reflecting buoyed expectations for bilateral business and construction partnerships with Saudi Arabia.  

As Saudi Arabia is actively forming business partnerships with Korean companies as part of its NEOM megaproject, multiple Korean companies saw their stock prices rise.  




Members of the crown prince’s accompanying delegation in Seoul. Twenty-six MoUs were signed between the two sides during the visit. (AFP)

Hyundai Rotem, a heavy industry company that manufactures rolling stock, military equipment and plant engineering, saw its stock price rise by 5.45 percent at Thursday’s closing, after announcing the same day that it signed a memorandum with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Investment on railway cooperation.

The stock price of Bifido, Korea’s pharmabiotics microbiome company, also rose by 8.03 percent after signing a memorandum with a Saudi Arabian biopharma company to cooperate on producing probiotics. 

EuBiologics, another biopharmaceutical company, also saw its stock price rise by 0.85 with the firm agreeing to share vaccine technologies with a Saudi pharmaceutical firm. BMT, a piping and valve company, likewise saw its stock price rise by 1.91 percent as it announced a cooperative deal with Saudi Arabia to produce fitting valves.

Also on Thursday, a delegation from the Center for Government Communication of the Saudi Ministry of Media paid a visit to the headquarters of The Korea Times newspaper, where it discussed opportunities for cooperation and partnership, in addition to reviewing the most prominent experiences and expertise in the field of media and publishing. 

As he departed Seoul on Thursday evening, the crown prince sent a cable of thanks to President Yoon.

He said: “As I leave your friendly country, it gives me great pleasure to express to Your Excellency my deep gratitude and appreciation for the good reception and generous hospitality accorded to me and the accompanying delegation.

“The discussions we held confirmed the strength of the relations between the two countries, and the common desire to enhance cooperation in all fields within the framework of the Saudi-Korean Vision 2030, and in a way that serves the interest of the two friendly peoples, under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and Your Excellency.

“I wish Your Excellency good health and happiness, and to your country and the friendly Korean people continued progress and prosperity.”

 


Beijing, Shenzhen scrap COVID-19 tests for public transport

Beijing, Shenzhen scrap COVID-19 tests for public transport
Updated 46 min 40 sec ago

Beijing, Shenzhen scrap COVID-19 tests for public transport

Beijing, Shenzhen scrap COVID-19 tests for public transport
  • Slight relaxation of COVID-19 testing requirements comes even as daily virus infections reach near-record highs

BEIJING: Local Chinese authorities on Saturday announced a further easing of COVID-19 curbs, with major cities such as Shenzhen and Beijing no longer requiring negative tests to take public transport.
The slight relaxation of COVID-19 testing requirements comes even as daily virus infections reach near-record highs, and follows weekend protests across the country by residents frustrated by the rigid enforcement of anti-virus restrictions that are now entering their fourth year, even as the rest of the world has opened up.
The southern technological manufacturing center of Shenzhen said Saturday that commuters no longer need to show a negative COVID-19 test result to use public transport or when entering pharmacies, parks and tourist attractions.
Meanwhile, the capital Beijing said Friday that negative test results are also no longer required for public transport from Dec. 5. However, a negative result obtained within the past 48 hours is still required to enter venues like shopping malls, which have gradually reopened with many restaurants and eateries providing takeout services.
The requirement has led to complaints from some Beijing residents that even though the city has shut many testing stations, most public venues still require COVID-19 tests.
The government reported 33,018 domestic infections found in the past 24 hours, including 29,085 with no symptoms.
As the rest of the world has learned to live with the virus, China remains the only major nation still sticking to a “zero-COVID” strategy which aims to isolate every infected person. The policy, which has been in place since the pandemic started, led to snap lockdowns and mass-testing across the country.
China still imposes mandatory quarantine for incoming travelers to the country, even as its infection numbers are low compared to its 1.4 billion population.
The recent demonstrations, the largest and most widely spread in decades, erupted Nov. 25 after a fire in an apartment building in the northwestern city of Urumqi killed at least 10 people.
That set off angry questions online about whether firefighters or victims trying to escape were blocked by locked doors or other anti-virus controls. Authorities denied that, but the deaths became a focus of public frustration.
The country saw several days of protests across various cities, including Shanghai and Beijing, with protesters demanding an easing of COVID-19 curbs. Some demanded Chinese President Xi Jinping step down, an extraordinary show of public dissent in a society over which the ruling Communist Party exercises near total control.
Xi’s government has promised to reduce the cost and disruption of controls but says it will stick with “zero-COVID.” Health experts and economists expect it to stay in place at least until mid-2023 and possibly into 2024 while millions of older people are vaccinated in preparation for lifting controls that keep most visitors out of China.
While the government has conceded some mistakes, blamed mainly on overzealous officials, criticism of government policies can result in punishment. Former NBA star Jeremy Lin, who plays for a Chinese team, was recently fined 10,000 yuan ($1,400) for criticizing conditions in team quarantine facilities, according to local media reports.
On Friday, World Health Organization emergencies director Dr. Michael Ryan said that the UN agency was “pleased” to see China loosening some of its coronavirus restrictions, saying “it’s really important that governments listen to their people when the people are in pain.”


Russia likely planning to encircle Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut, Britain says

Russia likely planning to encircle Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut, Britain says
Updated 03 December 2022

Russia likely planning to encircle Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut, Britain says

Russia likely planning to encircle Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut, Britain says
  • Capture of the town would have limited operational value
  • But it can potentially allow Russia to threaten Kramatorsk and Sloviansk

Russia is likely planning to encircle the Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut with tactical advances to the north and south, Britain’s defense ministry said on Saturday.
The capture of the town would have limited operational value but it can potentially allow Russia to threaten Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, the ministry added in a daily intelligence update.
“There is a realistic possibility that Bakhmut’s capture has become primarily a symbolic, political objective for Russia,” the ministry said in the update posted on Twitter.


UN human rights chief decries new Myanmar death sentences

UN human rights chief decries new Myanmar death sentences
Updated 03 December 2022

UN human rights chief decries new Myanmar death sentences

UN human rights chief decries new Myanmar death sentences
  • Military-installed government using capital punishment as a tool to crush opposition
  • At least seven university students were sentenced to death behind closed doors on Wednesday

BANGKOK: Myanmar’s military-installed government has sentenced more critics to death, bringing the total to 139, and is using capital punishment as a tool to crush opposition, the UN high commissioner for human rights said Friday.
High Commissioner Volker Turk said at least seven university students were sentenced to death behind closed doors on Wednesday, and there are reports that as many as four more youth activists were sentenced on Thursday.
“The military continues to hold proceedings in secretive courts in violation of basic principles of fair trial and contrary to core judicial guarantees of independence and impartiality,” Turk said in a statement. “Military courts have consistently failed to uphold any degree of transparency contrary to the most basic due process or fair trial guarantees.”
The military seized power in February last year, ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The army’s action was met with widespread peaceful protests that were quashed with lethal force, triggering armed resistance that some UN experts have characterized as civil war.
Turk said the military-installed government has arrested nearly 16,500 people for opposing the army takeover, including about 1,700 who have been convicted in secret courts without access to lawyers.
The Students’ Union of Dagon University in Yangon, the country’s largest city, announced Thursday on its Facebook page that seven university students between the ages of 18 and 24 who were arrested on April 21 had been sentenced to death Wednesday by a military court in Yangon’s Insein Prison.
An executive member of the Dagon University Students’ Union told The Associated Press that the seven were accused of links to an urban guerrilla group opposed to military rule and convicted of murder for allegedly taking part in shooting a bank branch manager in April.
In late July, the government hanged four political activists, in the country’s first executions in at least three decades.
The hangings prompted condemnations from Western nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which has sought to defuse the crisis with a five-point plan that the military government has failed to implement.
“By resorting to use death sentences as a political tool to crush opposition, the military confirms its disdain for the efforts by ASEAN and the international community at large to end violence and create the conditions for a political dialogue to lead Myanmar out of a human rights crisis created by the military,” Turk said.


Pentagon debuts its new stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider

Pentagon debuts its new stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider
Updated 03 December 2022

Pentagon debuts its new stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider

Pentagon debuts its new stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider
  • “The way it operates internally is extremely advanced compared to the B-2, because the technology has evolved so much in terms of the computing capability that we can now embed in the software of the B-21,” Warden said

PALMDALE , California: America’s newest nuclear stealth bomber made its debut Friday after years of secret development and as part of the Pentagon’s answer to rising concerns over a future conflict with China.
The B-21 Raider is the first new American bomber aircraft in more than 30 years. Almost every aspect of the program is classified.
As evening fell over the Air Force’s Plant 42 in Palmdale, the public got its first glimpse of the Raider in a tightly-controlled ceremony. It started with a flyover of the three bombers still in service: the B-52 Stratofortress, the B-1 Lancer and the B-2 Spirit. Then the hangar doors slowly opened and the B-21 was towed partially out of the building, its wheels inching close to the outer pavement.
“This isn’t just another airplane,” Austin said. “It’s the embodiment of America’s determination to defend the republic that we all love.”
The B-21 is part of the Pentagon’s efforts to modernize all three legs of its nuclear triad, which includes silo-launched nuclear ballistic missiles and submarine-launched warheads, as it shifts from the counterterrorism campaigns of recent decades to meet China’s rapid military modernization.
China is on track to have 1,500 nuclear weapons by 2035, and its gains in hypersonics, cyber warfare and space capabilities present “the most consequential and systemic challenge to US national security and the free and open international system,” the Pentagon said this week in its annual China report.
”We needed a new bomber for the 21st Century that would allow us to take on much more complicated threats, like the threats that we fear we would one day face from China, Russia, ” said Deborah Lee James, the Air Force secretary when the Raider contract was announced in 2015.
While the Raider may resemble the B-2, once you get inside, the similarities stop, said Kathy Warden, chief executive of Northrop Grumman Corp., which is building the bomber.
“The way it operates internally is extremely advanced compared to the B-2, because the technology has evolved so much in terms of the computing capability that we can now embed in the software of the B-21,” Warden said.
Other changes include advanced materials used in coatings to make the bomber harder to detect, Austin said.
“Fifty years of advances in low-observable technology have gone into this aircraft,” Austin said. “Even the most sophisticated air defense systems will struggle to detect a B-21 in the sky.”
Other advances likely include new ways to control electronic emissions, so the bomber could spoof adversary radars and disguise itself as another object, and use of new propulsion technologies, several defense analysts said.
“It is incredibly low observability,” Warden said. “You’ll hear it, but you really won’t see it.”
Six Raiders are in production. The Air Force plans to build 100 that can deploy either nuclear weapons or conventional bombs and can be used with or without a human crew. Both the Air Force and Northrop also point to the Raider’s relatively quick development: The bomber went from contract award to debut in seven years. Other new fighter and ship programs have taken decades.
The cost of the bombers is unknown. The Air Force previously put the price at an average cost of $550 million each in 2010 dollars — roughly $753 million today — but it’s unclear how much is actually being spent. The total will depend on how many bombers the Pentagon buys.
“We will soon fly this aircraft, test it, and then move it into production. And we will build the bomber force in numbers suited to the strategic environment ahead,” Austin said.
The undisclosed cost troubles government watchdogs.
“It might be a big challenge for us to do our normal analysis of a major program like this,” said Dan Grazier, a senior defense policy fellow at the Project on Government Oversight. “It’s easy to say that the B-21 is still on schedule before it actually flies. Because it’s only when one of these programs goes into the actual testing phase when real problems are discovered.” That, he said, is when schedules start to slip and costs rise.
The B-2 was also envisioned to be a fleet of more than 100 aircraft, but the Air Force built only 21, due to cost overruns and a changed security environment after the Soviet Union fell.
Fewer than that are ready to fly on any given day due to the significant maintenance needs of the aging bomber, said
The B-21 Raider, which takes its name from the 1942 Doolittle Raid over Tokyo, will be slightly smaller than the B-2 to increase its range, Warden said. It won’t make its first flight until 2023. However, Warden said Northrop Grumman has used advanced computing to test the bomber’s performance using a digital twin, a virtual replica of the one being unveiled.
Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota will house the bomber’s first training program and squadron, though the bombers are also expected to be stationed at bases in Texas and Missouri.
US Sen. Mike Rounds, a Republican of South Dakota, led the state’s bid to host the bomber program. In a statement, he called it “the most advanced weapon system ever developed by our country to defend ourselves and our allies.”
Northrop Grumman has also incorporated maintenance lessons learned from the B-2, Warden said.
In October 2001, B-2 pilots set a record when they flew 44 hours straight to drop the first bombs in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks. The B-2 often does long round-trip missions because there are few hangars globally that can accommodate its wingspan, which limits where they can land for maintenance. The hangars also must be air-conditioned because the Spirit’s windows don’t open and hot climates can cook cockpit electronics.
The new Raider will also get new hangars to accommodate the size and complexity of the bomber, Warden said.
However with the Raider’s extended range, ‘it won’t need to be based in-theater,” Austin said. “It won’t need logistical support to hold any target at risk.”
A final noticeable difference was in the debut itself. While both went public in Palmdale, the B-2 was rolled outdoors in 1988 amid much public fanfare. Given advances in surveillance satellites and cameras, the Raider was just partially exposed, keeping its sensitive propulsion systems and sensors under the hangar and protected from overhead eyes.
“The magic of the platform,” Warden said, “is what you don’t see.”

 


US whistleblower Snowden gets a Russian passport – TASS

US whistleblower Snowden gets a Russian passport – TASS
Updated 03 December 2022

US whistleblower Snowden gets a Russian passport – TASS

US whistleblower Snowden gets a Russian passport – TASS

MOSCOW: Former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who exposed the scale of secret surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA), has sworn an oath of allegiance to Russia and received a Russian passport, TASS reported on Friday.
“Yes, he got [a passport], he took the oath,” Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s lawyer, told the state news agency TASS.
“This is still a criminal investigative matter,” White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Friday, referring any questions about the report on Snowden to the US Department of Justice, which declined to comment.
US authorities have for years wanted Snowden returned to the United States to face a criminal trial on espionage charges.
President Vladimir Putin in September granted Russian citizenship to Snowden, who fled the United States after leaking secret files that revealed the extensive eavesdropping activities of the United States and its allies.
“I’m in Russia because the White House intentionally canceled my passport to trap me here. They downed the President of Bolivia’s diplomatic aircraft to prevent me from leaving, and continue to interfere with my freedom of movement to this day,” Snowden, 39, said on Twitter on Friday, referring to events from 2013.
Snowden was referring an incident in July 2013, when Bolivia complained that its presidential jet carrying Evo Morales from Russia to Bolivia had been rerouted and forced to land in Austria over suspicion that Snowden was on board.
Defenders of Snowden hail him as a modern-day dissident for exposing the extent of US spying and alleged violation of privacy. Opponents say he is a traitor who endangered lives by exposing the secret methods that Western spies use to listen in on hostile states and militants.