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Saudi crown prince cancels Japan trip over King Salman's health concerns

The Saudi Press Agency reported Sunday that the crown prince’s 88-year-old father, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz, was suffering from lung inflammation and will be treated at the Al Salam Palace in Jeddah.
SHARM EL SHEIKH, EGYPT - FEBRUARY 24: King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia during talks with UK Prime Minister Theresa May while they attend the first Arab-European Summit on February 24, 2019 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Leaders from European and Arab nations are meeting for the two-day summit to discuss topics including security, trade and migration. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has canceled a four-day planned trip to Japan that was scheduled for this week amid concerns about the health of his father, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz, Japan’s top government spokesperson Yoshimasa Hayashi said late Sunday.

The visit, which was due to begin Monday, would have been the crown prince’s first to the Asian country since 2019. Crown Prince Mohammed was due to meet Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the country's emperor as well as representatives of several Japanese companies and sign deals to bolster supply chains for liquid hydrogen, Japanese news outlets reported.

The Saudi Press Agency reported Sunday that the crown prince’s 88-year-old father was suffering from lung inflammation and will be receiving antibiotics at the Al Salam Palace in Jeddah. Last month, King Salman was admitted to King Faisal Specialist hospital in Jeddah for "a routine check up" visit, Saudi state media said. 

King Salman has ruled Saudi Arabia since 2015 after King Abdullah died in 2015. Two years later, the king removed Mohammed bin Nayef as crown prince and replaced him with his son.

The 38-year-old crown prince is seen as de facto king and handles most of the day-to-day affairs of the kingdom and is next in line for the throne. Crown Prince Mohammed was also due to visit Japan in late 2022, but that was canceled just before he was due to arrive.

"The visit of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Crown Prince Mohammed to Japan will be re-coordinated between the two countries," Hayashi told reporters late Sunday. Saudi sources told AFP that despite the de facto leader's absence, a Saudi delegation would still travel to Japan for some talks.

On Monday, the two countries’ foreign ministers spoke for 15 minutes on the phone. According to a statement from the Japanese Foreign Ministry, Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa expressed her sincere wishes for the speedy recovery of the king and said that she wanted to work closely with Riyadh as the world faces multiple crises, including in Gaza and Ukraine. The ministry said the two ministers conveyed that they would like to rearrange the trip as soon as possible.

Japan and Saudi Arabia have been deepening their ties over recent years. As Japan is the fourth largest economy in the world, its help has been crucial for Saudi Arabia to realize its Vision 2030, the crown prince’s plan to diversify the kingdom’s economy from reliance on oil by investing heavily in other sectors including entertainment, tourism and renewable energy.

On the other side, Riyadh is Tokyo’s largest supplier of crude oil at around $34.3 billion annually and a major supplier of petrochemicals.

Saudi Arabia became Japan’s eighth largest trading partner in 2023 with bilateral trade reaching $42 billion, according to International Monetary Fund data.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, Crown Prince Mohammed met with US national security adviser Jake Sullivan in the eastern city of Dharhran to discuss finding a solution to the war in Gaza, SPA reported.