Fri, Feb 22, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Saudi crown prince in China on latest Asian tour stop

AP, BEIJING

The national flags of Saudi Arabia, right, and China are displayed in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman yesterday arrived in China on the latest stop of a sweep through Asia that seeks to boost relations with the kingdom’s neighbors.

Prince Mohammad’s visit follows trips to India and Pakistan, which send millions of workers to Saudi Arabia and are seeking closer economic ties.

He is today to meet Chinese officials, including Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), highlighting Saudi Arabia’s importance as one of China’s top oil suppliers and a market for its exports, including military drones.

The visit underscores China’s attempts to balance its relationships in the Middle East, a major component of its Belt and Road Initiative.

Prince Mohammad’s visit follows one earlier this week by a high-powered delegation from Iran.

At a meeting on Wednesday, Xi told Iranian Islamic Consultative Assembly Speaker Ali Larijani that “China’s resolve to develop a comprehensive strategic partnership with Iran will remain unchanged,” regardless of the evolving international situation, Xinhua news agency reported.

Saudi Arabia’s silence on the Uighur issue in Xinjiang is partly explained as a show of appreciation for China’s noninterference policy in other states’ domestic affairs, which contrasts with Western states’ linkage of foreign and economic relations, and human rights, said Jonathan Fulton, a political scientist at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed University.

It also reflects China’s success in framing its policies toward Muslim minorities as a struggle against political Islam, Fulton said.

“Many Arab countries are also concerned with Islamist political groups ... and see these as ideological threats to their governments,” he said.

Prince Mohammad is to visit South Korea after Beijing.

In New Delhi, he offered intelligence sharing and other cooperation with India in fighting extremism and terrorism, as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tackles rising tensions with Pakistan following a suicide bombing last week on Indian paramilitary soldiers in Kashmir.

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