TOKYO/KUALA LUMPUR: World leaders condemned Friday’s assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, while paying tribute to him as a great leader.
Abe, 67, was shot from behind in Nara in western Japan while giving a campaign speech. He was airlifted to a hospital and later pronounced dead.
Tributes poured in as governments expressed sorrow and solidarity with Japan over the loss of Abe, who was Japan’s longest-serving leader before stepping down in 2020 for health reasons.
US President Joe Biden said he was “stunned, outraged, and deeply saddened” and offered his condolences to Abe’s family. He ordered US flags to be flown at half-staff through July 10 to honor Abe and would stop at the Japanese embassy in Washington en route to remarks at CIA headquarters to sign a condolence book.
“This is a tragedy for Japan and for all who knew him,” Biden said. “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.”
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who hastily returned to Tokyo from campaign events around the country, condemned the “unforgivable act.” He said campaigning as well as Sunday’s elections for parliament’s upper house will proceed.
“The free and fair election, which is the root of democracy, needs to be protected no matter what. We will not be defeated by violence,” Kishida said.
Biden called Kishida “a very solid guy” and said he did not believe the killing was likely to have “any profound, destabilizing impact on Japanese security or Japanese solidarity.”
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply saddened by the horrific killing,” adding that he would “always remember his collegiality and commitment to multilateralism.”
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen tweeted: “The brutal and cowardly murder” of Abe “shocks the world“
“I will never understand the brutal killing of this great man,” said European Council President Charles Michel in a separate tweet.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the leadership role taken by the former premier, saying the UK stands with Japan “at this dark and sad time.”
“Incredibly sad news about Shinzo Abe. His global leadership through unchartered times will be remembered by many,” Johnson tweeted.
In a message of condolence sent to Japan’s Emperor Naruhito, Queen Elizabeth II said she too was “deeply saddened” by the news of Abe’s death, adding that she had “fond memories of meeting Mr.Abe and his wife” when they visited the UK in 2016.
French President Emmanuel Macron said “Japan has lost a great prime minister.”
Abe had “dedicated his life to his country and worked for stability in the world,” he said in a tweet.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed shock and solidarity with Japan over the killing.
“The deadly attack on Shinzo Abe has left me aghast and deeply sad,” the German leader tweeted. “I extend deep sympathy to his family, my colleague Fumio Kishida and our Japanese friends.”
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said that his country was “shocked by the terrible attack that hits Japan and its free democratic debate.”
Jordan’s King Abdullah II said he was shocked and saddened by the attack. “The world lost a great leader, and Jordan and I lost a true friend,” the monarch tweeted.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte termed the attack “cowardly,” and said his thoughts were with Abe’s loved ones and the Japanese people.
“At today’s cabinet meeting we paused to reflect on this dark day for Japanese democracy. I have fond memories of our friendship and the work we did together,” he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called the death an “irreplaceable loss.”
In a telegram to Abe’s family, Putin called Abe an “outstanding statesman” who had done a lot to develop “good neighborly ties between our countries.”
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol termed the killing an “unacceptable act of crime.”
“I extend my consolation and condolences to his family and the Japanese people for having lost their longest-serving prime minister and a respected politician,” Yoon said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a day of national mourning on Saturday as a mark of deepest respect for Abe.
“Mr. Abe made an immense contribution to elevating India-Japan relations to the level of a special strategic and global partnership. Today, whole India mourns with Japan and we stand in solidarity with our Japanese brothers and sisters in this difficult moment,” 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 impact, and a profound and positive one for Australia. He will be greatly missed.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky extended his condolences to Abe’s family.
“Horrible news of a brutal assassination of former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe. I am extending my deepest condolences to his family and the people of Japan at this difficult time. This heinous act of violence has no excuse,” he tweeted.
Iran decried the shooting as “an act of terrorism.”
“As a country that has been a victim of terrorism and has lost great leaders to terrorists, we are following the news closely and with concern,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of my dear friend Abe, the former prime minister of Japan, in an armed attack. I condemn those who carried out this heinous attack,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
The Chinese embassy in Japan said it was “shocked” by the shooting.
“During his tenure, former Prime Minister Abe made contributions to the improvement and development of China-Japan relations. We express our condolences on his passing and express sympathy and solicitude for his family,” an embassy spokesperson said.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo extended condolences on Twitter.
“We will always remember his contributions in strengthening RI-Japan cooperation,” he wrote. “May the family of PM Abe and the Japanese people be given strength in this difficult time.”
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro expressed “extreme indignation” at the killing and declared three days of official mourning in solidarity with Japan.
Bolsonaro described Abe as a “brilliant leader” and “great friend of Brazil” in a tweet that included a photo of the two men shaking hands at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in 2019.
Brazil is home to the largest Japanese community outside of the archipelago, with about 1.9 million immigrants and descendants.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Abe’s assassination “incredibly shocking.”
“The world has lost a great man of vision, and Canada has lost a close friend,” he said, offering condolences to Abe’s widow and the people of Japan.
“Shocking news from Japan that former PM Shinzo Abe has been shot,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese tweeted after the attack.
“Our thoughts are with his family and the people of Japan at this time.”
Former president Donald Trump also weighed in, saying the detained assassin “will hopefully be dealt with swiftly and harshly.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken mourned Abe as a visionary leader who boosted relations between the two allies.
Meeting his Japanese and South Korean counterparts jointly at a G20 meeting in Bali, Blinken said Abe “brought the relationship between our countries, the United States and Japan, to new heights.”
The International Olympic Committee praised Abe for his “vision, determination and dependability” that allowed it to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for one year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It said the Olympic flag will be flown at half staff at Olympic House in Lausanne for three days.
(With AFP and AP)