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A new approach

The Saudi Arabia’s King has completed half of his one-month Asian trip. Apart from the objectives of economy and influence expansion, this special trip has shown a new diplomatic approach at a time when (in the context that) skepticism about the relations with its closest ally, the US, emerges.

Starting on Feb. 26, the trip to seven Asian countries namely Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Japan, China, Mandive and Gorgedani, is drawing much public attention in the region. Particularly, Indonesia is considered the central point of the trip.

Looking at the agenda and countries, it can be said the economic objectives received priority (priority was given to economy). Saudi Arabia is moving forward economic diversification to avoid heavily dependent on oil export and to address (overcome) the revenue decline as the world’s oil price keeps falling. In this context, the promotion of cooperation with dynamic Asian economy and expand its market for oil exploitation are proper choices for Saudi Arabia. Besides, the developing Asian economies are in need of energy for production, which can help Riyadh to meet its target of raising the turnover of exportation and attract foreign investment to industrial sectors, infrastructure and non-oil fields.

Moreover, Riyadh also wanted to attract Asian investors as the first stock issue of national petrol corporation Saudi Aramco is about to take place in 2018. With only 5% stocks sold, Saudi Aramco is estimated to secure about 100 billion USD in this world’s biggest listing.

The objectives have been realized through trade deals which worth billions of dollars. For instance, in his first leg in Malaysia, seven memoranda of understanding in various sectors have been concluded, including the cooperation in aviation and construction. In addition, the visit to China is expected to consolidate (beef up) the firm business connection with Beijing – the leading economic partner which has surpassed the US as the biggest oil importer of Riyadh.

Apart from economic benefits, the King’s trip was intended to expand Saudi Arabian influence in Asia – the world’s important geo-politic strategic area with great potential and is developing dynamically. By visiting Muslim dominated countrie (countries with a large number of Muslim followers) such as Indonesia and Malaysia, the Saudi Arabian King hoped to strengthen the relations with Islamic community not only limited to economy but also in other fields such as religion, culture and education. Saudi Arabia is taking the lead in the Arabian alliance against terrorism in the region. Winning more supports and participation can empower the alliance in which Saudi Arabia plays a key role. Recently, tension between Saudi Arabia and Iraq has been softened (eased). As a result, additional supports from Asian countries can give Saudi Arabia a leverage to improve relations with its arch enemy (formidable enemy) in the Middle East, as well as to increase its role in addressing common challenges in the region.

Another factor cannot fail to see is the skepticism caused by the foreign policy adjustment of the US, a long standing and closest ally of Saudi Arabia in terms of politics and economy. The “American first” policy of President Donald Trump is giving a rise to skepticism about US’s commitment.

It remains to be seen whether the rift in US-Saudi Arabian relations will occur (emerge). But the lack of confidence and (the uneasiness) the concern about “American first” policy is one of the factors that drove Saudi Arabia to widen international cooperation and endeavor to seek new allies. The fact that the trip to Asia was held before the visit to Washington has demonstrated the readjustment of policy in response to (in conformity with/ in line with) this new situation (international affairs).

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