Momentum growing in Saudi Arabia-Japan relations


Momentum growing in Saudi Arabia-Japan relations

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) welcomes Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Jeddah. Jul. 16, 2023 (SPA/AFP)
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) welcomes Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Jeddah. Jul. 16, 2023 (SPA/AFP)
Short Url

On the 64th birthday of Naruhito, the emperor of Japan, which falls on Friday, I would like to extend my profound congratulations. I am pleased to see the celebrations in both of our friendly countries, as Saudi Arabia has also been marking its Founding Day this week. I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to Arab News for providing me with this opportunity to address the evolving bilateral relations between Japan and Saudi Arabia.

Reforms in the Kingdom have been progressing and, recently, Saudi Arabia has been elected to host World Expo 2030, while it has also become the sole candidate to host the FIFA World Cup in 2034. The Kingdom also holds frequent international conferences and exhibitions, including the World Water Forum in Riyadh in 2027. The Kingdom is showing its international presence more than ever before. Amid these circumstances, Japan-Saudi bilateral relations have greatly prospered over the past year. On this special day, I would like to share with you three things regarding the recent development of our two countries’ partnership.

The first is the increasing number of high-level visits between Japan and the Kingdom. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to Jeddah last July was followed by the visits to Riyadh of then-Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi in September and Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Ken Saito and Parliamentary Vice-Minister Yoichi Fukazawa in December.

These visits achieved significant results, including the hosting of the first Japan-Saudi Arabia Foreign Ministerial Level Strategic Dialogue, an agreement on the resumption of negotiations for a Japan-Gulf Cooperation Council Free Trade Agreement, the seventh ministerial meeting of the Japan-Saudi Vision 2030, and the signing of memorandums of cooperation in the fields of tourism and mineral resources.

From the economic perspective, Japanese companies are increasingly interested in investing in Saudi Arabia

Iwai Fumio

Likewise, from the Kingdom, Minister of Defense Prince Khalid bin Salman, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah bin Amer Al-Swaha, Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar bin Ibrahim Alkhorayef, Public Investment Fund Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan and other senior officials have visited Japan to promote bilateral relations and cooperation in a wide range of fields.

Second, from the economic perspective, Japanese companies are increasingly interested in investing in Saudi Arabia. When Kishida and Saito each visited the Kingdom last year, they were accompanied by business missions consisting of a wide variety of Japanese companies and organizations, ranging from startups to large corporations. Japan-Saudi investment events were held and about 40 memorandums of understanding were signed in areas such as medicine and healthcare, water, space, entertainment and tourism, in addition to energy. In fact, Japanese companies such as HIS, Fujifilm Healthcare, Monstarlab, Canon Medical Systems, Takeda Pharmaceutical, Avex and AIZAWA Concrete have opened new offices and factories in the Kingdom and kicked off their business operations.

In sports, international tournaments such as the FIFA Club World Cup, the World Combat Games and the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament were held in Saudi Arabia and many Japanese teams and players had opportunities to play in the Kingdom. In terms of culture, the Japan Festival was held in Riyadh last November, featuring Japanese cultural experiences, stage performances and exhibitions by Japanese companies, attracting more than 3,000 visitors over two days.

I hope that the increase in mutual visits among citizens will bring Japan and Saudi Arabia closer together

Iwai Fumio

Thirdly, it is worth mentioning the promotion of tourism between the two countries. The number of visas issued to Saudis for travel to Japan has increased sharply, about four times more than in the previous year. This is due to the March launch of the online application process for tourist visas and December’s start of issuance of multiple-entry visas for Saudi passport holders who meet certain conditions. Now, discussions are underway to launch direct flights between Japan and Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, Japanese interest in traveling to Saudi Arabia has been growing, with a Saudi familiarization trip taking place last November for Japanese travel industry representatives, while the development of tours for Japanese visitors is progressing rapidly. I hope that the increase in mutual visits among citizens of these two countries will bring Japan and Saudi Arabia closer together over the years to come.

Thus, the cordial relationship between Japan and the Kingdom continues to strengthen in various areas, such as the increasing number of visits by key government officials, the development of business in new fields and more opportunities for people-to-people communications through mutual visits by citizens. As June 7, 2025, marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries, I would like to further enhance the momentum for promoting bilateral relations, leading to a new phase of Japan-Saudi ties.

It is with great pleasure that I conclude my message by wishing King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and all the people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia good health and happiness.

  • Iwai Fumio is the Japanese ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view