PM Lee among top leaders to attend state funeral for ex-Japan PM Abe

PM Lee Hsien Loong will be attending former Japanese premier Shinzo Abe's state funeral in Tokyo later this month. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

TOKYO - Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will be among world leaders attending the state funeral of slain former Japanese premier Shinzo Abe in Tokyo later this month.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, during a Diet debate on Thursday to address questions over what is turning out to be an unpopular state funeral, name-dropped top leaders who will pay their final respects.

Other than PM Lee, whose press secretary on Friday confirmed will be in attendance, Mr Kishida also mentioned United States Vice-President Kamala Harris, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

He also named Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc and European Council President Charles Michel.

Mr Kishida said the confirmed attendance of these leaders shows Mr Abe's prominence as a global statesman who had raised Japan's international profile.

He had to seek the understanding of the Foreign Ministry and National Police Agency to break with diplomatic and security protocol in revealing the roll call of leaders any earlier than three days before an event, as he made his case for the state funeral to proceed.

The event, which comes at a cost of 1.66 billion yen (S$16.3 million) in taxpayers' money, will be held on Sept 27 at the Nippon Budokan arena. It will be only the second state funeral in post-war Japan, after one held in 1967 for former premier Shigeru Yoshida.

Recent public surveys by media outlets across the political divide are in consensus: a majority were against the state funeral.

Observers have said that Mr Kishida is in a bind, in part due to the amount of time that has elapsed since the outpouring of shock and grief after Mr Abe was assassinated on the campaign trail on July 8.

The state funeral was decided six days after the killing, with Mr Abe still being seen as a martyr for Japanese democracy.

Yet the narrative has drastically shifted to the Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) ties with the Unification Church, whose alleged coercive tactics have bankrupted and broken up families across Japan.

The suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, who turns 42 this month, accused the church of wrecking his family, saying that he targeted Mr Abe due to the latter's video message to an affiliated church organisation.

An internal LDP probe released on Thursday found that 179 out of its 379 lawmakers had ties with the church, of whom 121 were seen to have "substantial" relations.

Yamagami, who is in custody and undergoing psychiatric evaluation, has received donations amounting to one million yen, as well as clothing, food and comic books.

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