Saudi King Salman Returns Home from Asia Tour, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Departs United States

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman returned home from a month-long trip to several Asian nations this weekend as Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman, left the United States.

King Salman arrived in Riyadh on Saturday after a successful visit to China, where the Kingdom signed up to $65 billion in trade deals and joint projects with the country that is second in the world in total GDP.

King Salman in China oversees the signing of deals and joint projects between Saudi Arabia and China.

King Salman in China oversees the signing of deals and joint projects between Saudi Arabia and China.

Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) signed an agreement Thursday with Chinese state-owned Sinopec Group for new joint projects and potentially increased investment in an existing joint venture.

Saudi Arabia also signed a contract for the acquisition of 300 of the newest Chinese strike-capable reconnaissance unmanned aerial long-haul vehicles Wing Loong II (also known as Pterodactyl II), according to reports.

The productive visit to China follows similarly fruitful visits to Japan, Indonesia, and Malaysia, where the King met with business and government leaders in an effort to boost Saudi-Asia trade and economic relations.

Meanwhile, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the King’s son and powerful head of Saudi Arabia’s Council on Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA), returned to Saudi Arabia following a visit to Washington. Prince Mohammed met with President Donald Trump at the White House for an extended lunch meeting, and also met at the Pentagon with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

Taken together, the Saudi royal family’s outreach to the East and West to enhance economic and security ties with allies is a boost for the Kingdom’s foreign policy and security goals as well as its Vision 2030 reform plan. That plan, and the accompanying National Transformation Plan, seeks to diversify the Kingdom’s economy away from petroleum and to modernize its society and governance. The dual outreach to the United States and East Asia highlights how the Saudi government hopes to enhance its position as a strategically valuable bridge between East and West.