World leaders paid tribute to former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, after the political titan widely credited with reviving the nation’s economy and seen as a close friend by other major democracies, was shot to death.
Japan’s longest-serving premier was shot from about 3 meters (10 feet) behind during a campaign event in the city of Nara on Friday, ahead of a parliamentary election this weekend. The attack stunned a nation where political violence and guns are extremely rare.
Abe, 67, came from a conservative political dynasty and had a reputation as a deft political operator who maintained enduring influence after leaving office.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “shocked and saddened beyond words” at the tragic news about one of his “dearest friends.” “He was a towering global statesman, an outstanding leader and a remarkable administrator,” Modi wrote on Twitter. “He dedicated his life to make Japan and the world a better place.”
India would mark a day of national mourning on Saturday “as a mark of our deepest respect,” the Modi said in a Twitter post.
Japan and India are part of the so-called Quad grouping that also includes the US and Australia. Abe visited India several times as Japan’s premier, and the two leaders launched a “special strategic and global partnership” collaborating on areas including civilian nuclear energy and maritime security.
Outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Abe’s passing “incredibly sad.” “His global leadership through unchartered times will be remembered by many. My thoughts are with his family, friends and the Japanese people,” he wrote on Twitter. “The UK stands with you at this dark and sad time.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Abe a “a leader with great vision” on the sidelines of the Group of 20 meetings in Bali, describing his death as “profoundly disturbing.”
“Prime Minister Abe was an extraordinary partner and someone who was clearly a great leader,” Blinken added, nothing that he took the US-Japan relationship “to new heights.”
Former US president Donald Trump, who once called Abe Japan’s greatest prime minister, called the news “devastating,” according to a statement shared on Twitter by Dan Scavino, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications.
“He was a true friend of mine and, much more importantly, America,” Trump wrote, after the news of Abe’s shooting, according to the post. “This is a tremendous blow to the wonderful people of Japan, who loved and admired him so much.”
The office of Taiwan’s leader Tsai Ing-wen said in a statement that the international community had lost an important leader, and Taiwan had lost an important dear friend. “Taiwan and Japan both are democratic countries of rule of law,” the statement said. “Taiwanese government condemns violence and illegal acts.”
Japan and Taiwan enjoy close but unofficial ties that have deepened in recent years, with the democratic island’s security status having a direct impact on its neighbor.
President Xi Jinping hasn’t made a statement. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China was shocked by the attack at a regular press briefing earlier in the day, noting the shooting shouldn’t be linked with China-Japan ties.
The Chinese embassy in Japan said in a statement that Abe had made contributions to the development and improvement of China-Japan relations during his tenure as Japan’s prime minister, and extended condolences to his family.
Abe stabilized Tokyo’s relationship with Beijing while in office, restoring official visits and opening the nation’s doors to Chinese tourists. But mistrust simmered, and Abe’s visit to a controversial shrine honoring Japan’s war dead — including convicted criminals — days after leaving office infuriated Beijing.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he was “saddened” by Abe’s death, calling the Japanese statesman “one of Australia’s closest friends on the world stage.”
“Abe was a leader in the Indo-Pacific, championing a vision of a free and open region,” he added, in a statement. “Mr Abe was also a giant on the world stage — a leader in the G7, the G20 and the United Nations. He legacy was one of global impact.”
President Yoon Suk Yeol called the shooting an “unacceptable criminal act” and expressed deepest sorrow and shock in a Friday afternoon statement. “I extend my condolences to the bereaved families and the Japanese people who have lost the longest-serving prime minister and respected politician in the history of Japan’s constitution,” Yoon said.
During his time in office, Abe had built support at home by taking a tough line on Japan’s neighbor, and former South Korean President Moon Jae-in built support by responding. Relations between the two traditional foes worsened on issues such as wartime “comfort women” and trade.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose country has battled gun crime during her tenure, wrote on Twitter that she was “deeply shocked” by the shooting.
“He was one of the first leaders I met when I became PM. He was deeply committed to his role but also generous & kind,” she said. “My thoughts are with his wife and the people of Japan. Events like this shake us all to the core.”
President Emmanuel Macron wrote in French on Twitter: “Profoundly shocked by the heinous attack of which Shinzo Abe was the victim. My thoughts are with the family and those close to a great prime minister. France is with the Japanese people.”
Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi said: “The Italian government condemns the attack against Shinzo Abe. Italy supports him and the Japanese population in this dramatic moment.”
Israeli President Isaac Herzog posted on Twitter to say he was “horrified by the despicable murder” of “one of Japan’s most preeminent leaders in modern times.”
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, host of the G-20 meeting in Bali, condoled the killing. “I wish to extend our deepest sympathy and condolences from the people and govt of Indonesia to the people and govt of Japan in this time of sorrow,” he said.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha called Abe a person with knowledge, capability, and experience who was loved by everyone especially the Japanese people, in a statement Friday.
The Thai leader paid tribute to Abe’s contributions to strengthening Japan’s relations with his country, saying his 2013 visit marked the first by a Japanese leader in 11 years.
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