Saudi Crown Prince in China on latest stop of Asian tour

BEIJING (AP) — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in China yesterday on the latest stop of a sweep through Asia that seeks to boost relations with the kingdom’s neighbours.

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

He is to meet Chinese officials, including President and ruling Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, today, 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 to link its markets to those in Asia, Africa and Europe through rail and road networks and infrastructure such as power stations and factories.

Prince Mohammed’s visit to Beijing follows one earlier this week by a high-powered delegation from Saudi Arabia’s chief strategic rival, Iran.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. – AP

At a meeting on Wednesday, Xi told Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani that “China’s resolve to develop a comprehensive strategic partnership with Iran will remain unchanged,” regardless of the evolving international situation, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency.

Commenting on Wednesday on the Crown Prince’s visit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said recent years have “seen a positive momentum in our cooperation with fruitful outcomes in various areas such as infrastructure and space satellites”.

“We hope that through this visit we will enhance our relations enhance mutual trust, deepen cooperation … and inject momentum into our bilateral relations,” Geng said.

Prince Mohammed 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 Prime Minister Narendra Modi tackles rising tensions with Pakistan following a suicide bombing last week on Indian paramilitary soldiers in disputed Kashmir.