My interview with Japanese MP Taro Kono on Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s visit

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I first met Japanese MP Taro Kono during the G1 Global Conference held in Tokyo last year where I was invited to speak about the Future of the Middle East and anyone familiar with  Mr. Kono would know that he never shies away from swimming against the tide, whenever needed.

One thing I know for sure is that Mr. Kono has a deep-rooted and genuine interest in Middle Eastern affairs. When I visited his office at the Japanese Parliament last year, I was fascinated to see that he possesses more books about the Arab world than I do. He almost always has an intern working at his office who hails from the Middle East, and speaks Arabic. He has visited a number of Arab countries including Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, UAE and Saudi Arabia.

MP Taro Kono, who is scheduled to meet with Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who is leading a Saudi delegation in Tokyo as part of an Asian tour, has agreed to answer a few questions via email prior to his meeting with Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. Having been the chief cost-cutter for Japan’s national budget for over a decade, and a Minister for Administrative Reform, the meeting with Prince Mohammad is expected to be fruitful, considering that Mr. Kono says that he understands how hard Riyadh is trying to transform its role and streamline the budget.

“We hope to share our experience and work together,” he says. Contrary to the mainstream political views in Japan, Mr. Kono believes that his country should take in Syrian refugees and be “more politically involved in the Middle Eastern affairs.”

Furthermore, Mr. Kono (who has served as Chairperson of the National Public Safety Commission under current PM Abe) believes Japan and Saudi Arabia can cooperate in areas such as combatting terrorism, particularly given the Japanese security emphasis in the build up to the 2020 Olympics, which his country will host.

This, of course, goes hand-in-hand with Saudi Arabia leadership of the Riyadh-based coalition of more than 30 countries called the Islamic Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IAFT), which Prince Mohammad oversaw the formation of, with the objective to defeat international violent extremism militarily, ideologically, financially

To read my full article on this, click here.

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