World leaders, friends mourn killing of Japan's former PM Shinzo Abe

A 2019 photo shows Mr Abe (centre) with then US president Donald Trump (left) and and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at a G-20 summit meeting in Japan. PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON - Current and former world leaders have expressed profound shock and sadness at the assassination on Friday (July 8) of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, regarded as a statesman and Japan's most consequential post-war premier.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a day of national mourning on Saturday, tweeting "Mr Abe made an immense contribution to elevating India-Japan relations to the level of a Special Strategic and Global Partnership."

Mr Abe had cemented ties between their countries and was an enthusiastic proponent of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) , which groups Japan, India, Australia and the United States in what is seen as a counterweight to China.

In Washington, President Joe Biden said in a statement: "I am stunned, outraged, and deeply saddened by the news that my friend Abe Shinzo... was shot and killed while campaigning.

"I had the privilege to work closely with Prime Minister Abe," Mr Biden said. "He was a champion of the alliance between our nations and the friendship between our people. The longest serving Japanese Prime Minister, his vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific will endure. Above all, he cared deeply about the Japanese people and dedicated his life to their service. Even at the moment he was attacked, he was engaged in the work of democracy."

He added: "While there are many details that we do not yet know, we know that violent attacks are never acceptable and that gun violence always leaves a deep scar on the communities that are affected by it."

Mr Biden has ordered US flags to be flown at half-staff through July 10 to honour Mr Abe.

Mr Abe was shot in the western city of Nara, while campaigning for a parliamentary election, shocking a country in which political violence is rare and guns are tightly controlled.

SPH Brightcove Video
Former Japanese leader Shinzo Abe died on Friday (July 8), after he was shot during a rally speech in Nara prefecture in western Japan. This is how it happened.

Mr Abe had two stints in office as prime minister, from 2006 to 2007 and 2012 to 2020.

He was best known for his "Abenomics" policy of unprecedented aggressive monetary easing and fiscal spending aimed at reviving Japan's flagging economy

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol condemned the shooting as an "unpardonable act of crime" and expressed deep sorrow and shock, according to his office.

In Beijing, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian said: "China is shocked by this unexpected incident. Former Prime Minister Abe had contributed to promoting the improvement and development of Sino-Japanese relations."

In a Facebook post, Indonesia's President Joko Widodo paid his condolences on "the tragic demise" of Mr Abe.

"We will always remember his contributions in strengthening RI-Japan cooperation," he wrote.

Asean foreign ministers, in a statement, said they are shocked and saddened by the fatal shooting of Mr Abe, for which there can be no justification.

"We express our deepest sympathies and condolences to the Government
and people of Japan and to the family of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,
who has been a beloved and good friend of Asean," the statement said.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he was "shocked and saddened by the tragic death of former Japanese PM Abe Shinzo. He was a great friend and ally to Australia."

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen wrote in a social media post: "Taiwan and Japan have overcome many obstacles together and build a deep friendship, all with former PM Abe's support."

Similar messages of sympathy and shock poured in from Europe.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the late leader a "wonderful person, great democrat and champion of the multilateral world order."

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the assassination had left him "shocked and deeply saddened". "We stand closely by Japan's side in these difficult hours," he added.

Outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that it was "incredibly sad news" and said that Mr Abe's "global leadership through unchartered times will be remembered by many."

Tributes also came from former world leaders, reflecting the global legacy of Mr Abe.

A 2019 photo shows (from left) Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha and Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, at an Asean-Japan Summit in Bangkok. PHOTOS: REUTERS

Former Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, who hosted Mr Abe at his home in Davao in 2017, said: "Abe was a good and loyal friend, a staunch supporter of my administration and a strong ally of the nation.

Mr Abe was the first leader to visit the Philippines after Mr Duterte took over as president in 2016.

"As the world mourns the loss of this great man, we remember him for his compassionate service and remarkable leadership. Indeed, one of the most influencial world leaders of our time."

In a statement before Mr Abe's death was confirmed, former US President Donald Trump, who was particularly close to the Japanese leader, hailed him as a "truly great man and leader" and "a true friend of mine and, much more importantly, America."

  • Additional reporting by The Straits Times' overseas bureaus

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