TOKYO (AP) — Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was suffering from heart failure after he was apparently shot during a campaign speech Friday in western Japan, state broadcaster NHK said Friday.
The broadcaster released footage showing Abe, 67, collapsed in the street, with several security guards running towards him. Abe was clutching his chest as he collapsed, his shirt spattered with blood. NHK says Abe was rushed to hospital.
Witnesses reported hearing gunshots during the apparent attack in Nara. He stood as he delivered a campaign speech ahead of Sunday’s election to the upper house of parliament.
Police arrested a suspicious man at the scene on suspicion of attempted murder, NHK said.
It was not immediately clear how serious Abe’s injuries were or if he was still showing vital signs.
The attack came as a shock in a country that is one of the safest in the world and has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world.
The term heart failure means that the heart cannot sufficiently pump blood and supply the necessary oxygen to the rest of the body. In Japan, authorities sometimes use this term to describe situations where the victims are no longer alive but before an official declaration of death has been made.
Abe is Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, having served two separate terms, from 2006 to 2007 and from 2012 to 2020. Abe’s grandfather and great-uncle both served as Prime Minister of Japan, from 1957 to 1960 and from 1964 to 1972, respectively. .
Abe announced his resignation as prime minister in August 2020, citing continuing issues with ulcerative colitis. He was succeeded as prime minister by his former chief cabinet secretary, Suga Yoshihide, who served until 2021.
Among his many notable policies, the former conservative prime minister is known for his “Abenomics” economic policies, which were put in place in 2013 to reinvigorate Japan’s economy. The policies remain controversial as many, including current Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, believe increased government spending has fallen short of expected benefits for ordinary workers.
Upon stepping down in 2020, Abe told reporters it was “heartbreaking” to leave many of his goals unfinished. He spoke of his inability to solve the problem of the Japanese kidnapped years ago by North Korea, a territorial dispute with Russia and a revision of the constitution of Japan renouncing the war.
That last goal was a big reason why he was such a controversial figure.
His ultra-nationalism annoyed the Koreas and China, and his efforts to normalize Japan’s defense posture angered many Japanese. Abe failed to achieve his cherished goal of formally rewriting the pacifist US-drafted constitution due to weak public support.
In 2013, then-Prime Minister Abe raised his eyebrows after saying he would backtrack on some of the language of Japan’s official acknowledgment in 1993 that women had been raped and enslaved by the Japanese army during World War II. At that time, Abe said he intended to revise the acknowledgment as there was no evidence the women had acted against their will.
Abe’s supporters said his legacy was a stronger U.S.-Japan relationship meant to bolster Japan’s defense capability. But Abe has also made enemies by forcing his defense targets and other contentious issues through parliament, despite strong public opposition.
Among his fans are former US presidents. Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon. During a visit to Tokyo in 2019, Bannon praised Abe, calling him “Trump before Trump.”
His political rhetoric was often aimed at making Japan a “normal” and “beautiful” nation with a stronger military and a bigger role in international affairs.
US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel expressed sadness and shock at the shooting. “Abe-san has been an outstanding leader of Japan and a staunch ally of the United States. The American government and the American people pray for the well-being of Abe-san, his family, and the Japanese people,” he said. he said on Twitter.
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