Saudi National Day: Saudi Arabia’s vibrancy keeps on increasing
On this celebratory occasion of Saudi Arabia’s 93rd National Day, I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the people of the Kingdom. It is a great honor to talk about the friendship and close bond between Japan and Saudi Arabia on this day, when we express our respect to the first King Abdulaziz, who built up the current Kingdom, and to the contributions of those who are promoting extraordinary reforms under the leadership of the Saudi royal family. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Arab News for giving me this opportunity.
Having overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, mutual visits of high-level officials between Japan and the Kingdom are increasing. In July of this year, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited Saudi Arabia for the first time since taking office, holding a Japan-Saudi Arabia summit meeting with the crown prince. This month, the two leaders met again and held a talk on the occasion of the G20 summit in India, building a close relationship with each other.
In addition, Saudi Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman and Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Public Investment Fund, have both visited Japan. On Sept. 7, then-Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi held the first Japan-Saudi Arabia Foreign Ministerial Level Strategic Dialogue meeting with his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Riyadh. This series of high-level mutual visits between the two countries have all been realized over the past few months.
In his meeting with the crown prince, Prime Minister Kishida reiterated Japan’s unwavering support for Vision 2030 and confirmed that Tokyo would further expand its cooperation in a wide range of fields within the framework of the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030, which was launched in 2017. Through these face-to-face discussions, the cooperative relationship between the two countries has been developing at an accelerating pace. Tangible efforts are also progressing, such as the establishment of the Japan-Saudi Arabia Foreign Ministerial Level Strategic Dialogue and the resumption of free trade agreement negotiations between Japan and the Gulf Cooperation Council.
In the field of the economy, multifaceted cooperation will be promoted in the areas of the exploration and refining of key minerals, development of solar power generation, production and utilization of hydrogen and ammonia, and utilization of electrofuels, in which both countries could leverage their advantages. Thus, cooperative projects are being considered toward decarbonization, which both Japan and the Kingdom are aiming for. In this context, I hope that many Japanese businessmen will attend the seventh edition of the Future Investment Initiative, to be held in Riyadh next month, and take an interest in investment opportunities in the Kingdom.
I am excited to see a new world of entertainment in the Kingdom, together with the Saudi people.
From a different perspective, Saudi Arabia’s vibrancy keeps on increasing in terms of sports and culture. In football, world-class players are joining Saudi club teams one after another and the FIFA Club World Cup will be held in the Kingdom in December, which the entire country is looking forward to with great excitement. Also, the World Combat Games, which includes Japanese martial arts such as judo and kendo, is to be held in Riyadh in October and I am looking forward to the active participation of Japanese players in it.
The Saudi sports world is also packed with events such as golf, motor racing and electronic sports. Furthermore, I recently found a concept video in which Turki AlSheikh, the chairman of the General Entertainment Authority, announced the slogan of “Big Time” for this year’s edition of Riyadh Season. I am excited to see a new world of entertainment in the Kingdom, together with the Saudi people.
Considering these interactions at the governmental level, as well as the live activities in the Kingdom, I hope that the exchanges between the people of Saudi Arabia and Japan will become even more active.
It is worth mentioning that the number of visa applications to Japan has rapidly increased since the online application and payment system for short-stay tourist visas began in March of this year and that, accordingly, the number of Saudi people traveling to Japan is increasing. From this point of view, the tourism authorities of the two countries signed a memorandum of cooperation in the field of tourism in July, which is expected to further invigorate the tourism businesses of both countries.
Just like Japan has many attractions for tourists, the Kingdom also has many natural and cultural heritage sites. Also, I think that, while their historical and cultural backgrounds are different, the Kingdom has many similarities to Japan, such as its hospitality for guests, which attracts the Japanese people. I look forward to more people from both countries visiting the other and deepening our mutual understanding.
Thus, I sincerely hope that the bond between our two countries will grow stronger and stronger as we approach the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2025.
Once again, congratulations on your National Day.
• Iwai Fumio is the Japanese ambassador to Saudi Arabia.