By EILEEN NG Associated Press
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The shocking assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday in one of the world’s safest countries stunned leaders and drew condemnation. Iran called it an “act of terrorism” while Spain criticized the “cowardly attack”.
Abe, 67, was shot in the back in Nara, western Japan, while making a campaign speech. He was airlifted to a hospital, but he was not breathing and his heart had stopped. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital. Abe was the longest-serving leader in Japan before resigning in 2020 due to health reasons.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who hastened back to Tokyo from campaign events across the country, called the shooting “cowardly and barbaric.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking to the foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea at a trilateral meeting in Bali, said Abe’s killing was “deeply disturbing” and a “personal loss for many people.” “.
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“For the United States, Prime Minister Abe was an extraordinary partner and someone who was clearly a great leader for Japan and the Japanese people,” Blinken said, adding that Abe, during his time in office, “brought the relationship between our countries: the United States and Japan, to new heights”.
Leaders from Turkey to Singapore condemned the attack, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling the shooting “despicable.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted his “deepest condolences to his family and the people of Japan at this difficult time.”
“This heinous act of violence is inexcusable,” he added.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s office quoted him as saying that the shooting that led to Abe’s death is “an intolerable criminal act.”
Iran condemned the shooting as “an act of terrorism.”
“As a country that has been a victim of terrorism and has lost great leaders at the hands of terrorists, we are following the news closely and with concern,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
People in Japan could be seen reading extra editions of the Friday newspaper with Abe’s picture blown up on the front page, or stopping to watch the news on television.
Public broadcaster NHK broadcast dramatic footage of Abe giving a speech outside a train station in the western city of Nara. He is on his feet, dressed in a navy blue suit, raising his fist, when two shots are heard. The footage then shows Abe collapsed in the street.
“We are shocked and saddened to learn of the violent attack on former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,” the White House said in a statement shortly after.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier expressed her 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 about the recent loss of our pet when I first met him, a small gesture but it speaks to 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 who is lying face down on the pavement. On the ground is a double-barreled device that appears to be a handmade weapon.
Police arrested a suspected gunman at the scene. Under Japanese law, the possession of firearms, as well as certain types of knives and other weapons, such as crossbows, is illegal without a special license. Importing them is also illegal.
The leaders of Germany, Pakistan, Sweden and the Philippines were among those who gave their condolences, and many countries, including Spain and France, expressed solidarity with Japan. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a one-day national mourning on Saturday as a show of deepest respect for Abe.
“Mr. Abe made an immense contribution in elevating India-Japan relations to the level of a special global and strategic partnership. Today, the whole of India mourns Japan and we stand in solidarity with our Japanese brothers and sisters 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 was one of global, profound and positive impact for Australia”. He will be greatly missed.”
Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose term in office between 2005 and 2021 largely overlapped with that of former Japanese Shinzo Abe, said she was “deeply shocked and devastated” by the news that he had died from injuries “inflicted in a cowardly and vile murder”. hours before.”
“My first thoughts are with his wife and family,” he said in a statement. “I duel with them. I wish you comfort and support.”
Taiwan’s government said that “Abe spared no effort in advancing the progress of Taiwan-Japan relations for many years,” highlighting Abe’s push amid the COVID-19 pandemic for the Japanese government to donate vaccines to Taiwan. .
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi offered his deepest condolences, saying Italy was embracing Abe’s family, the Japanese government and people.
“Italy is distressed by the terrible attack on Japan and its free and democratic debate. Abe was a great protagonist of Japanese and international political life in recent decades, thanks to his innovative spirit and reformist vision,” Draghi said in a statement.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt noted that Abe was killed “while campaigning for his fellow party members. All politicians should be safe while executing their work for democracy.”
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, chairman of the Group of 20 nations foreign ministers meeting in Bali, Indonesia, lamented Abe’s “untimely death” 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 passed away after the assassination,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said after the summit. “My thoughts, our thoughts here at the G-20 meetings are with his family, with his friends, and it is with great sadness that we also send our regards to all the citizens of Japan.”
In China, however, Abe’s shooting drew unfavorable comments from tens of thousands of nationalist citizens on social media.
Some joked, “I hope he’s not okay,” while dozens half-jokingly called the shooter “a hero” or “anti-Japanese hero.” Others said Abe’s injuries were a comfort to the souls of people who had died in the Japanese invasion of China during World War II.
While not necessarily the opinion of the majority of Chinese, the posts reflect strong public sentiment, spurred by government propaganda, against right-wing Japanese politicians who question or deny that the military has committed atrocities in China.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian declined to comment. He said that China expressed sympathy for Abe’s family and that the shooting should not be linked to bilateral relations.
Associated Press journalists from around the world contributed to this report.
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