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South Korean President Moon Jae-In and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman walk towards a guard of honour during a welcoming ceremony at the presidential Blue House on June 26, 2019 in Seoul, South Korea. Image Credit: AP

Seoul - South Korean President Moon Jae-in met Wednesday with visiting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, who promised to help with possible fuel shortages in case of supply disruptions caused by tensions in the Middle East.

Moon and the Saudi crown prince also called for international efforts to secure safety at the Strait of Hormuz, where the US has blamed Iran for mysterious explosions targeting oil tankers, Moon’s office said after the meeting at Seoul’s presidential Blue House.

Tehran denied involvement in the attacks, which raised concerns among Asian countries of potential supply disruptions. South Korea gets more than 70 per cent of its crude oil from the Middle East and most of the supplies flow through the strait.

South Korea and Saudi Arabia signed an $8.3 billion economic co-operation pact and Moon’s office said the countries also agreed to increase exchanges in various sectors including technology and industry. Moon also pledged South Korean support for Saudi Arabia’s national drive to diversify its oil-dependent economy by developing sectors such as health, education and tourism.

$8.3b

deal signed between Saudi Arabia and South Korea

South Korea is the world’s fifth largest importer of crude oil and Saudi Arabia has been its biggest supplier. South Korea imported nearly 101.5 million barrels of crude from Saudi Arabia from January to April, according to the state-run Korea National Oil Corp.

Most of the $8.3 billion agreement is accounted for by a $6 billion deal between oil giant Saudi Aramco and Korean firm S-Oil to build refinery and downstream facilities in South Korea.

A giant banner welcoming the crown prince was hung on the Seoul headquarters of S-Oil, South Korea’s third-biggest refiner, which is majority owned by Saudi Aramco.

Saudi Arabia is South Korea’s “biggest construction market overseas, the largest investor in the country among countries in the Middle East and also the biggest trading parter in the region,” Moon said.

The crown prince visited Pakistan, India and China in February, and is scheduled in Japan later this week to attend the G20 summit in Osaka.

The economic pact also involved several other deals between Saudi Aramco and Korean firms, including Korea National Oil Corporation, Hyundai Heavy Industries and carmaker Hyundai Motor.

The crown prince also met with the heads of the country’s biggest conglomerates, including Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong.