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.”

 


Earthquake rocks China’s northwestern Xinjiang region

Earthquake rocks China’s northwestern Xinjiang region
Updated 31 January 2023

Earthquake rocks China’s northwestern Xinjiang region

Earthquake rocks China’s northwestern Xinjiang region
  • The China Earthquake Networks Center registered the quake at a preliminary magnitude of 6.1, while the US Geological Survey reported it as 5.7

BEIJING: Residents and travelers sought shelter after a strong earthquake rocked a remote part of northwestern China on Monday morning.
No injuries or major damage have been reported following the temblor that struck the Xinjiang region at 7:49 a.m., according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of people evacuating an airport departure hall and ceiling fixtures swaying as the ground rocked. Ground crews were seen inspecting the airport’s exterior as the sun began to rise over the region’s Shahe county.
The China Earthquake Networks Center registered the quake at a preliminary magnitude of 6.1, while the US Geological Survey reported it as 5.7.
A vast, resource-rich region of mountains and deserts, Xinjiang is one of China’s most seismically volatile regions, though most quakes strike in sparsely inhabited areas outside major cities.
Investigators were checking on the epicenter but no disruptions had been reported to the local power grid, oil and gas production or petrochemical industries, Xinhua said.
China’s deadliest recent earthquake was magnitude 7.9 that struck Sichuan province, south of Xinjiang, in 2008, killing nearly 90,000 people.

 


China’s Sichuan to scrap three-child limit as birth rates drop

Visitors enjoy skating on the crowded frozen Houhai Lake near the Drum Tower, background, in Beijing, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (AP
Visitors enjoy skating on the crowded frozen Houhai Lake near the Drum Tower, background, in Beijing, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (AP
Updated 31 January 2023

China’s Sichuan to scrap three-child limit as birth rates drop

Visitors enjoy skating on the crowded frozen Houhai Lake near the Drum Tower, background, in Beijing, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (AP
  • The last time China’s population declined was in 1960, as the country battled the worst famine in its modern history, caused by the disastrous Mao Zedong agricultural policy known as the Great Leap Forward

BEIJING: Southwest China’s Sichuan province will lift its three-child birth limit and remove restrictions on single parents as the world’s most populous nation faces a looming demographic crisis.
China’s population shrank last year for the first time in more than six decades, official data released this month showed, and the nation of 1.4 billion has seen birth rates plunge to record lows as its workforce ages.
China ended its strict “one-child policy” — imposed in the 1980s out of fears of overpopulation — in 2016 and began allowing couples to have three children in 2021.
But that has failed to reverse the demographic decline.
Faced with falling birth rates, authorities in Sichuan on Monday said they would remove the limit on the number of children a family can have and lift a ban on single women registering a birth.
The Sichuan Provincial Health Commission said the new rules would take effect on February 15.
Out-of-wedlock births are frowned upon in China, with the National Health Commission saying in 2017 that they were “against the public order and against good morals.”
The last time China’s population declined was in 1960, as the country battled the worst famine in its modern history, caused by the disastrous Mao Zedong agricultural policy known as the Great Leap Forward.
The population stood at around 1,411,750,000 at the end of 2022, Beijing’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported recently, a decrease of 850,000 from the end of the previous year.
Many point to the soaring cost of living — as well as a growing number of women in the workforce and seeking higher education — as being behind the slowdown.
Many local authorities have already launched measures to encourage couples to have children.
The southern megacity of Shenzhen, for example, now offers birth bonuses of up to 10,000 yuan (around $1,500) and pays allowances until the child is three years old.


What’s behind the Pakistani Taliban’s insurgency?

What’s behind the Pakistani Taliban’s insurgency?
Updated 31 January 2023

What’s behind the Pakistani Taliban’s insurgency?

What’s behind the Pakistani Taliban’s insurgency?
  • TTP is separate from but a close ally of the Afghan Taliban, and that group’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 emboldened the TTP

ISLAMABAD: When a suicide bomber struck a mosque inside a police compound in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Monday, suspicion immediately fell on the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP.
In a post on Twitter, a commander for the group, Sarbakaf Mohmand, claimed responsibility for one of the deadliest attacks on security forces in recent months.
But more than 10 hours later, TTP spokesperson Mohammad Khurasani distanced the group from the bombing, saying it was not its policy to target mosques or other religious sites, adding that those taking part in such acts could face punitive action under TTP’s policy. His statement did not address why a TTP commander had claimed responsibility for the bombing.
The TTP’s denial also came after the Afghan Foreign Ministry condemned attacks on worshippers as contrary to the teachings of Islam.
Relations already are strained between Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers, who are sheltering the TTP leadership and fighters.
A look at the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which has waged an insurgency in the country for 15 years:
Why is the TTP fighting an insurgency?
Angered by Pakistan’s cooperation with Washington in the war on terrorism, the TTP was officially set up by Pakistani militants in 2007 when different outlawed groups agreed to work together against Pakistan and support the Afghan Taliban, who were fighting US and NATO forces.
The TTP seeks stricter enforcement of Islamic laws, the release of its members in government custody, and a reduction in Pakistani military presence in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province bordering Afghanistan that it has long used as a base.

Caption

The TTP has stepped up attacks on Pakistani soldiers and police since November, when it unilaterally ended a cease-fire with the government after the failure of months of talks, hosted by Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers in Kabul. The TTP has repeatedly warned police not to take part in operations against its fighters in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
What is the relationship between the TTP and the Afghan Taliban?
The TTP is separate from but a close ally of the Afghan Taliban, and that group’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 emboldened the TTP, which shares the group’s ideology.
TTP fighters used to hide in Pakistan’s tribal northwest and also had sanctuary in Afghanistan, but they mostly lived a fugitive existence.
However, the Afghan Taliban started openly sheltering the TTP when they came to power. The Afghan Taliban also released TTP leaders and fighters who had been arrested by previous administrations in Kabul.
The Taliban have repeatedly said they will not allow anyone, including the TTP, to use Afghan soil for attacks against any country, including Pakistan. But Pakistani officials say there is a disconnect between the words and actions of the Afghan Taliban, who could stop the TTP from launching attacks inside the country but are failing to do so.


ALSO READ: 59 killed, 157 wounded, as suicide blast rips through Pakistan police mosque

The Pakistani Taliban have expressed their allegiance to the head of the Afghan Taliban, said Abdullah Khan, a senior defense analyst and managing director of the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies.
He added, however, that they have their own agenda and strategy.
TTP’s operations have largely been aimed at targeting Pakistani forces, similar to the Afghan Taliban’s agenda of ousting foreign forces from the country.
Khan fears that Pakistan will see a surge in militant violence in the coming weeks and months.
Has viollence increased recently?
Pakistan has seen innumerable militant attacks in the past two decades, but there has been an uptick since November, when the TTP ended a cease-fire with the government that had lasted for months.
The Pakistani Taliban regularly carry out shootings or bombings, especially in the rugged and remote northwestern Pakistan, a former TTP stronghold.
The violence has raised fears among residents of a possible military operation in the former tribal regions of North and South Waziristan, now two districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Hours after Monday’s mosque bombing, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan told the independent Geo news channel that Afghan Taliban rulers must stand by their commitment to the international community to not allow anyone to use their soil for attacks against another country.
“They should honor their promises,” he said.


US seeks to expand birth control coverage under Obamacare

US seeks to expand birth control coverage under Obamacare
Updated 31 January 2023

US seeks to expand birth control coverage under Obamacare

US seeks to expand birth control coverage under Obamacare
  • If the new rule is implemented, women enrolled in plans governed by the ACA would gain birth control coverage regardless of employer exemption, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a statement

WASHINGTON: Women whose employers have opted out of covering contraceptives under their health insurance plans on religious grounds would gain no-cost access to birth control under a rule proposed by the Biden administration on Monday.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, requires private insurance plans to cover recommended preventive services including contraception without any patient cost-sharing, but current regulations grant exemptions for religious or moral objections.
If the new rule is implemented, women enrolled in plans governed by the ACA would gain birth control coverage regardless of employer exemption, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a statement.
“Today’s proposed rule works to ensure that the tens of millions of women across the country who have and will benefit from the ACA will be protected. It says to women across the country, we have your back,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.
Under existing regulations, those enrolled in plans that do not cover contraception on religious or moral grounds can only access contraceptive services through an accommodation that employers can decline to offer.
Under the new rule, a provider would offer contraception at no cost to the employee and be reimbursed by an insurer, who would receive a credit from the government.
The rule would also remove employer moral objections as grounds for exemption from coverage but keep religious ones in place.

 


UK police face calls to prosecute Iranian accused of promoting terrorism

UK police face calls to prosecute Iranian accused of promoting terrorism
Updated 31 January 2023

UK police face calls to prosecute Iranian accused of promoting terrorism

UK police face calls to prosecute Iranian accused of promoting terrorism
  • Sayed Ataollah Mohajerani, a former senior Iranian government official living in London, is accused of backing the fatwa against author Sir Salman Rushdie
  • Human rights lawyers who filed the complaint said UK authorities have an obligation to prosecute international crimes and protect citizens from all forms of terrorism

LONDON: The UK’s Metropolitan police is facing calls to prosecute a former senior Iranian government official accused of endorsing the fatwa against author Sir Salman Rushdie.

Met officers are examining a legal case file that accuses Sayed Ataollah Mohajerani, who lives in London, of violating the Terrorism Act 2006 by promoting terrorism, the Guardian newspaper reported on Monday.

The fatwa against Rushdie, following publication of his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses,” was issued in February 1989 by Ayatollah Khomeini, who was Iran’s supreme leader at the time. It has never been lifted. In August 2022, Rushdie was stabbed several times and seriously injured while appearing on stage at a literary festival in New York.

A complaint was filed against Mohajerani that same month by Iranian human rights lawyer Kaveh Moussavi and British solicitor Rebecca Mooney, according to the Guardian. It states that Mohajerani was deputy to the Iranian prime minister in 1988 and vice-president for parliamentary and legal affairs between 1989 and 1997, a period of time during which the regime in Tehran ordered the assassinations of hundreds of dissidents in Europe.

Moussavi and Mooney allege that Mohajerani did not attempt to prevent the killings and, since moving to the UK, he has on several occasions lauded as an Iranian national hero Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, who was killed by a US drone strike in January 2020 in Iraq.

They also say that in his 1989 book, “A Critique of the Satanic Verses Conspiracy,” Mohajerani defended the fatwa against Rushdie and clearly expressed his view that it was religiously justified and irrevocable, and therefore impossible to withdraw.

Mohajerani denied the allegations and said his book is simply a critique of Rushdie’s novel that aims to shed light on its religious origins, the Guardian reported.

“When Salman Rushdie was attacked by an American citizen, I tweeted that I hope Salman Rushdie will recover from this event, and based on William Falkner’s advice, write a novel through concentrating on the beauties and moral values, at the service of human beings,” Mohajerani told the Guardian.

“On the contrary, in ‘The Satanic Verses,’ he added a huge amount of oil to the fire. Hopefully he will find a proper chance to correct himself.”

Mohajerani also said that because of the separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive in Iran, he had no role in the executions of prisoners in 1988.

Moussavi condemned Mohajerani’s defense as being “indicative of his culpability.”

“The idea that this is or was an independent judiciary is plain absurd. That he repeats it confirms again who he really is,” he told the Guardian.

“In law, he was required to protest and do his utmost to stop these crimes and, if unable, he must resign. I doubt very much if his defense counsel will offer these concoctions in a court case, as defense or mitigation.”

Police in London have reportedly said that the complex issues raised by the case file will require significant resources and additional time to investigate.

Mooney, representing the human rights charity Ending Immunity, highlighted the obligations on UK authorities to prosecute international crimes under international law.

“The first duty of the state is to protect its citizens — that requires preemptive, prosecutorial and punitive measures where appropriate,” she said. “That is why we have terrorism laws, including (laws against) promoting terrorism through speech. It is meaningless to have these laws if we do not prosecute.”