The assassination of Japan’s longest-serving prime minister during a campaign speech is “appallingly disturbing” and requires curbing the mounting violence and threats that damage democracy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
Abe was killed on a street in western Japan on Friday by a gunman who opened fire on him from behind while delivering a campaign speech — an attack that stunned the country that has some of the strictest gun control laws.
Abe, 67, collapsed bleeding and was flown to a nearby hospital in Nara, about 500 kilometers west of Tokyo. He was pronounced dead after receiving massive blood transfusions, officials said.
Trudeau, who sat at the G7 and G20 leadership tables with Abe from 2015 until Abe’s resignation in 2020, said Abe was “a wonderful friend and partner to Canada.”
“I’ve known Shinzo for many years,” Trudeau said. “He was an attentive, compassionate, strong leader who understood the importance of service, understood the importance of building a better world, better opportunities for its citizens.”
Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, who attended the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Indonesia, said she expressed Canada’s condolences to Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi.
Trudeau said the senseless death was compounded by the fact that it occurred while Abe was campaigning ahead of Japan’s upper house elections next week. He said everyone should reaffirm “the values and principles of democracy”, allowing for great debate and diversity of perspectives, but without the threat of violence and intimidation.
Security risks in Canadian politics have increased in recent years, most notably during the federal election campaign last fall, when the threat level against Trudeau rose so high that his security details were expanded significantly.
Interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen said in a statement that Abe’s tenure was “critical to strengthening relations between Canada and Japan”.
“His legacy is a commitment to regional prosperity and security that is reflected in treaties such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, to which both Canada and Japan are signatories,” she said.
In a statement from the White House, US President Joe Biden said he was “stunned, outraged and deeply saddened by the news that my friend Abe Shinzo, former prime minister of Japan, was shot dead during his campaign.”
“While there are many details we don’t know yet, we know that violent attacks are never acceptable and that gun violence always leaves a deep scar on the communities affected,” Biden said. “The United States stands behind Japan at this time of grief. I extend my deepest condolences to his family.”
Hidetada Fukushima, chief of the emergency department at Nara Medical University, said Abe sustained major damage to his heart, along with two neck injuries that damaged an artery. He never regained his vital signs, Fukushima said.
Nara Prefecture Police arrested the suspected gunman at the scene of the attack and identified him as Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, a former member of the Japanese Navy. Broadcaster NHK reported that he said he wanted to kill Abe because he had complaints about him that had nothing to do with politics.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his ministers returned to Tokyo from campaign events across the country after the shooting, which he called “dastardly and barbaric”. He promised that the elections, which elect members to the less powerful Japanese parliament, would go ahead as planned.
“I use the harshest words to condemn (the act),” Kishida said, struggling to control his emotions. He said the government was planning to review the security situation, but added that Abe had the highest level of protection.
Although he was out of office, Abe still had considerable influence in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and led its largest faction, Seiwakai.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said “events like this shake us all up”.
“He was one of the first leaders I formally met when I became Prime Minister. He was very committed to his role, as well as being generous and kind. I remember asking about the recent loss of our pet when I met him, a small gesture but one that speaks to the kind of person he is,” she said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he was “deeply upset” by the attack on a “best friend”.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called it a “pointless act of violence”.
“Mr. Abe is a good friend of Singapore. I had just invited him for lunch in May, during my visit to Tokyo. My thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Abe and his family,” Lee said on Facebook.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 8, 2022.
– With files from The Associated Press.