Friday’s shocking assassination of Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in one of the world’s safest countries stunned leaders and drew condemnation, with Iran calling it an “act of terrorism” while Spain slammed the “cowardly attack.”
Abe, 67, was shot from behind in Nara in western Japan while giving a campaign speech. He was airlifted to a hospital but was not breathing and his heart had stopped. He was pronounced dead later at the hospital. Abe was Japan’s longest-serving leader before stepping down in 2020 for health reasons.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who hastily returned to Tokyo from campaign events around the country, called the shooting “dastardly and barbaric.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking with the Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers at a trilateral meeting in Bali, said Abe’s assassination was “profoundly disturbing” and a “personal loss for so many people.”
Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in heart failure after apparently being shot during a campaign speech Friday in western Japan and subsequently lost his life, NHK public television said Friday.
The broadcaster aired footage showing Abe collapsed on the street, with several security guards running toward him. Abe was holding his chest when he collapsed, with his shirt smeared with blood. NHK says Abe was rushed to a hospital.
Abe was in Nara campaigning ahead of Sunday’s election for the parliament’s upper house and was giving a speech when people heard a gunshot.
Police arrested a male suspect at the scene, NHK said.
The attack was a shock in a country that’s one of the world’s safest and with some of the strictest gun control laws anywhere.
He told reporters at the time that it was “gut wrenching” to leave many of his goals unfinished. He spoke of his failure to resolve the issue of Japanese abducted years ago by North Korea, a territorial dispute with Russia and a revision of Japan’s war-renouncing constitution.
That last goal was a big reason he was such a divisive figure.
His ultra-nationalism riled the Koreas and China, and his push to normalize Japan’s defense posture angered many Japanese. Abe failed to achieve his cherished goal of formally rewriting the U.S.-drafted pacifist constitution because of poor public support.
Supporters of Abe said that his legacy was a stronger U.S.-Japan relationship that was meant to bolster Japan’s defense capability. But Abe made enemies too by forcing his defense goals 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 often focused on making Japan a “normal” and “beautiful” nation with a stronger military and bigger role in international affairs.