TOKYO — 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 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.
Abe was in Nara campaigning ahead of Sunday’s election to the upper house of parliament and was giving a speech when people heard a gunshot.
Police arrested a suspicious man at the scene on suspicion of attempted murder, NHK said.
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.
It was not immediately clear how serious Abe’s injuries were or if he was still showing vital signs.
Abe resigned in 2020 because he said a chronic health condition had resurfaced. Abe has suffered from ulcerative colitis since he was a teenager and said the disease was controlled with treatment.
He told reporters at the time that 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.
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.
Abe is a political blue blood who was groomed to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. His political rhetoric has often focused on transforming Japan into 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.