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26 May, 2024
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World leaders stunned by fatal shooting of Shinzo Abe

US condemns ‘profoundly disturbing’ killing of Japan’s former prime minister

Source: Financial Times

The killing of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on Friday sparked condemnation from political leaders around the world.

Abe, 67, who was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister when he stood down in 2020, died after being shot twice in the western city of Nara.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken said Abe’s death was “profoundly disturbing” as well as “a strong personal loss for so many people”.

“For the United States, Prime Minister Abe was an extraordinary partner and someone who clearly was a great leader for Japan,” said Blinken, adding that Abe had had a “great vision for what a free and open Indo-Pacific region could look like”.

“[He] really during his time in office brought the relationship between our country . . . and Japan to new heights,” the secretary of state said.

Japan’s fellow “Quad” members — Australia, India and the US — were among the first to respond after the shooting. Abe was instrumental in the formation of the Quad group, which is widely acknowledged as a partnership designed to counter China’s assertiveness in the region.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi ordered a day of national mourning in his country, saying he was “shocked and saddened beyond words at the tragic demise of one of my dearest friends, Shinzo Abe”.

Abe was chair of the Japan-India Association and had met Modi in Japan two months ago. “India today has lost a close friend,” said India’s defense minister Rajnath Singh.

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese described Abe as a “giant of the world stage”.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s chief diplomat, said Europe “loses a friend that has helped deepen and strengthen bilateral relations in all areas”.

“Shinzo Abe will be remembered as an unwavering ally in the pursuit of peace, democracy and the rule of law — in Europe, the Indo-Pacific, and the world,” Borrell added.

Jens Stoltenberg, secretary-general of Nato, the western military alliance, said he was “deeply saddened by the heinous killing of Shinzo Abe, a defender of democracy and my friend and colleague over many years”.

“My deepest condolences to his family, PM [Fumio] Kishida and the people of Nato’s partner Japan at this difficult time,” he added.

South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol, who has promoted stronger ties between South Korea and Japan since assuming office in May, expressed deep sadness and shock and sent his condolences to Abe’s family and to the Japanese people.

China’s embassy in Tokyo offered condolences on Abe’s death and sent sympathies to his family while also acknowledging his “contributions towards improving China-Japan relations”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a personal letter of condolences to Abe’s family calling him “an outstanding statesman”.

Kevin Rudd, the former Australian prime minister, said the attack “provides a sober reminder to all our democracies of how precious our freedoms are”.

“An attack on any democratically elected political leader is an attack on supporters of democracy everywhere,” added Rudd, who is now president of the US-based Asia Society think-tank.

Former US president Donald Trump, with whom Abe forged close ties, said via social media that the shooting was “a tremendous blow to the wonderful people of Japan”.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen condemned the “violent and illegal” act, while Wang Ting-yu, a member of Taiwan’s parliament from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said Abe had been “a good friend of Taiwan”.

Abe’s public support for Taiwan had strengthened since he left office amid growing Chinese diplomatic and military pressure on the democratic nation.

Charles Michel, European Council president, said on Twitter that Abe had been “a true friend, a fierce defender of multilateral order & democratic values . . . [The] EU stands with people of Japan and Kishida in these difficult times.”

News of the shooting dominated Chinese social media on Friday. Abe had long been a target of Chinese nationalists.

One popular Weibo comment under the news of the incident read: “Don’t forget that he visited the Yasukuni Shrine,” referring to the controversial institution that honors Japan’s war dead, including some convicted war criminals.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “profoundly shocked” by the “hateful” attack on Abe, whom he described as a “great prime minister”.

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez condemned “this cowardly attack”, adding that “Spain stands in solidarity with the Japanese people in these difficult times”.

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