Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will visit China next week, Beijing’s foreign ministry said on Friday, as part of a swing through Asia in which the monarch is expected to sign an investment package with cash-strapped Pakistan. The Saudi Arabian leader, who has come under suspicion over an alleged role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, will visit next Thursday and Friday and will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Vice Premier Han Zheng.
The visit will seek to “promote the greater development of Sino-Saudi relations” and “deepen cooperation” on China’s “Belt and Road” economic and trade diplomacy initiative, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily press briefing. The trip comes as the world’s top crude exporter has been investing heavily in refinery and petrochemicals projects across the globe to secure long-term buyers of its oil.
He will also make stops in Pakistan, India, Malaysia and Indonesia. The crown prince visits Pakistan over the weekend, with the two countries reportedly planning to sign a number of agreements. These include deals for a USD 10 billion oil and refining complex in Pakistan’s strategic port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea.
Gwadar figures prominently in plans for the massive multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a collection of infrastructure projects seen as a key plank in the Belt and Road initiative. The Chinese-led initiative involves investments worth some USD 60 billion in projects in a range of countries.
The crown prince’s travels take place against the backdrop of the diplomatic crisis triggered by the brutal murder in Turkey of Saudi journalist Khashoggi. The dissident journalist was dismembered after his murder October 2 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul but his remains have yet to be found. The heir apparent to the Gulf kingdom’s continues to be tarnished by his alleged links to Khashoggi’s death amid new revelations he spoke of going after the writer “with a bullet”.