The assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stuns world leaders

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Friday’s shocking killing of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in one of the world’s safest countries stunned leaders and drew condemnation, with Iran calling it a “act of terrorism” as EU leaders slammed the “despicable” attack.

Tributes poured in as governments expressed their grief and solidarity with Japan over the loss of Abe, who was Japan’s longest-serving leader before stepping down in 2020 for health reasons.

Abe, 67, was shot from behind in Nara, western Japan, while delivering a campaign speech. He was airlifted to hospital and later pronounced dead.

US President Joe Biden said he was “stunned, outraged and deeply saddened” and offered his condolences to Abe’s family. Biden said Friday he would stop at the Japanese embassy in Washington en route to remarks at CIA headquarters to sign a condolence book.

LOOK: The assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sends shock waves across the world

“This is a tragedy for Japan and for everyone who knew it,” Biden said. “His vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific will endure. Above all, he cared deeply for the Japanese people and dedicated his life to their service.“

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who hastily returned to Tokyo after campaign events across the country, condemned the “unforgivable act”. He said the campaign as well as Sunday’s elections for the upper house of parliament would continue.

“Free and fair elections, which are the root of democracy, must be protected no matter what. We will not be defeated by violence,” Kishida said.

Biden called Kishida a “very solid guy” and said he didn’t believe the killing was likely to have “a profound and destabilizing impact on Japanese security or Japanese solidarity.”

Turkey’s leaders in Singapore condemned the attack. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the French Foreign Office called the shooting “despicable”, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres “horrible” and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez “cowardly”.

“I have fond memories of meeting Mr Abe and his wife during their visit to the UK in 2016,” Queen Elizabeth II said in a written statement. “His love for Japan and his desire to forge ever closer ties with the UK were clear.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted his “deepest condolences to his family and to the people of Japan at this difficult time”.

“This heinous act of violence has no excuse,” he added.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol called the shooting “an intolerable criminal act”, his office said.

Iran denounced the shooting as “an act of terrorism”.

“As a country that has been a victim of terrorism and has lost great leaders to terrorists, we are following the news closely and with concern,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

Public broadcaster NHK aired a dramatic video of Abe giving a speech outside a train station in Nara. He is standing, dressed in a navy blue suit, his fist raised, when two shots are heard. The video then shows Abe collapsed in the street.

King Abdullah II of Jordan said he was shocked and saddened by the attack. “The world has lost a great leader, and Jordan and I have lost a true friend,” the monarch tweeted.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed shock at the shooting. She said Abe was one of the first leaders she met after taking office and described him as deeply committed to his role, generous and kind.

“I remember him asking after the recent loss of our pet when I met him, a small gesture but that shows the kind of person he is,” Ardern said. “Events like this shake us all to the core.”

In the NHK video, security guards are seen jumping on a man in a gray shirt lying face down on the sidewalk. A double-barreled device that appeared to be a homemade firearm is seen on the ground.

LOOK: Remembering the life and legacy of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Police arrested a suspect at the scene. According to Japanese law, possession of firearms is illegal without a special permit. Their import is also illegal.

Leaders from Germany, Pakistan, Sweden and the Philippines were also among those who offered condolences, and many countries, including Spain and France, expressed solidarity with Japan. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a day of national mourning on Saturday as a sign of deepest respect for Abe.

“Mr. Abe has made an immense contribution to elevating India-Japan relations to the level of a special strategic and global partnership. Today, all of India mourns with Japan and we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters Japanese at this difficult time,” Modi said.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Abe was one of Australia’s closest friends and a “giant on the world stage”, adding that “his legacy has a global impact, and a deep and positive legacy for Australia”. He will be greatly missed. »

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose term from 2005 to 2021 largely overlapped that of Abe, said she was “deeply shocked and devastated” by the “cowardly and despicable assassination”.

“My first thoughts are with his wife and family,” she said in a statement. “I cry with them. I wish them comfort and support.

The Taiwanese government said “Abe has spared no effort to advance Taiwan-Japan relations for many years,” noting his efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic to get the Japanese government to donate vaccines to Taiwan.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi offered his heartfelt condolences and said Italy embraces Abe’s family, the government and the people of Japan.

“Italy is shocked by the terrible attack on Japan and its free and democratic debate. Abe has been a great protagonist in Japanese and international political life in recent decades, thanks to his innovative spirit and his reformist vision”, Draghi said in a statement.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt noted that Abe was killed “while campaigning for his party members. All politicians must be safe in carrying out their work for democracy.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, who is chairman of the Group of 20 foreign ministers meeting in Bali, Indonesia, lamented Abe’s “untimely demise” and said he will “always be remembered as an excellent example for all”.

“It is with great dismay that all of us as participants have just learned that the former Prime Minister of Japan has died following the assassination,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said after the summit. . “My thoughts, our thoughts here at the G-20 meeting are with his family, friends, and it is with great sadness that we also send our greetings to all citizens of Japan.”

READ MORE: Fumio Kishida re-elected Prime Minister of Japan

The International Olympic Committee has praised Abe for his “vision, determination and reliability” which enabled him to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He indicated that the Olympic flag will fly at half-mast at Olympic House in Lausanne for three days.

Former US President Donald Trump said he hoped Abe’s killer would be dealt with “quickly and harshly”. “Really BAD NEWS FOR THE WORLD!” he said on his social media platform. He said Abe “was a unifier like no other, but above all he was a man who loved and cherished his beautiful country, Japan. Shinzo Abe will be sorely missed. There will never be one another like him!”

In China, however, Abe’s shooting sparked unfavorable comments from tens of thousands of nationalist citizens on social media.

Some joked, “I hope he’s not well,” while dozens half-joked calling the shooter a “hero” or an “anti-Japan hero.” Others said Abe’s wounds were a comfort to the souls of those who died during the Japanese invasion of China during World War II.

While not necessarily the view of most Chinese, the posts reflect strong public sentiment – ​​fostered by government propaganda – against right-wing Japanese politicians who question or deny that the Japanese military has committed atrocities in China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China expresses sympathy to Abe’s family and the shooting should not be linked to bilateral relations.

Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.


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