Saudi King brings two golden escalators and 100 limousines for four day trip to Japan

King Salman is in Tokyo to negotiate trade links as his country tries to wean itself off oil

Caroline Mortimer
Monday 13 March 2017 19:46
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Saudi Arabia King Salman bin Abdul-aziz al Saud (left) with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a banquet at Mr Abe's official residence in Tokyo
Saudi Arabia King Salman bin Abdul-aziz al Saud (left) with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a banquet at Mr Abe's official residence in Tokyo

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul-aziz al Saud and his thousand strong entourage have arrived for a four day trade visit in Japan, along with two golden escalators and a demand for a fleet of dozens of limousines.

The royal, who took over following his brother’s death in January 2015, is touring several Asian countries to boost trade links as part of his plan to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy away from oil.

It followed a nine-day trip to Indonesia which saw the king arrive with 459 tonnes of luggage and two Mercedes limousines.

There, a special toilet was built for him in a mosque. A custom seat was also constructed for him in the country’s House of Representatives.

The trip is part of a month long Asian tour which will also see him visit China and the Maldives.

Some 1,200 rooms in Tokyo’s most luxurious hotels were booked by the delegation for three nights following their arrival over the weekend.

A fleet of limousines have also reportedly been ordered to ferry him around the city as well as two golden escalators to help him on and off his private jet, The Daily Mail reported.

Saudi Arabia is the largest supplier of oil to Japan, which lacks many fossil fuel resources other than coal.

But King Salman is hoping to diversify into non-energy sectors such as manufacturing after the drop in the oil price has led to a financial crisis back home.

His visit is the first time a Saudi king has visited Japan, although he did travel to the country in 2014 when he was crown prince.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that Tokyo was willing to provide support for Riyadh.

"We will discuss growth strategy, including our 'Saudi Vision' project," he said, referring to Japanese collaboration with Vision 2030 - a roadmap adopted by the kingdom last year for its development and economic objectives.

King Salman also met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who said the pair had agreed to set up a feasibility study to explore whether they should set up a special economic zone within Saudi Arabia, The Japan Times reported.

The zone would mean Riyadh would offer tax incentives and simplified customs rules to encourage Japanese firms to build plants and research and development centres in a certain part of the country.

In a related move, local media has suggested car company Toyota are starting to looking at the possibility of building an auto assembly plant in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund and Japanese telecoms provider and energy company Softbank have joined forces in setting up a $25 billion (£20.4 billion) private fund for technology investments.

Trade between the countries fell overall last year as oil prices dropped. Japan's 2.1 trillion yen (£14.9 billion) in imports from Saudi Arabia in 2016, mostly oil and gas, dwarfed its exports of 546.3 billion yen (£3.9 billion).

Additional reporting by AP

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