World leaders paid tribute to former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, after he was fatally shot while campaigning for his political allies Friday morning.
A teary-eyed Fumio Kishida, Japan’s current prime minister, condemned the assassination when he appeared before Japanese reporters following news of Abe’s death. Kishida described Abe as a “personal friend” with whom he spent a lot of time.
Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi, a good friend of Abe’s, announced that July 9 will be a national day of mourning in India as a mark of “deep respect” for the late Japanese leader. Modi recalled how he visited Abe in his most recent trip to Japan, noting that he did not expect that that meeting would be their last.
Abe had made big strides to improve diplomatic ties between Japan and India during his tenure, including the signing of a historic civil nuclear deal in 2016.
In a statement, U.S. President Joe Biden said he was “stunned, outraged, and deeply saddened” by the news. “The longest serving Japanese Prime Minister, his vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific will endure.” Abe fostered strong ties with Washington in his near-decade long rule.
European leaders including German chancellor Olaf Scholz and French president Emmanuel Macron also shared their condolences. “We stand closely by Japan’s side in these difficult hours,” Scholz tweeted. “Japan has lost a great prime minister,” Macron said.
European Council President Charles Michel decried the “cowardly” attack on Abe, whom he called “a true friend” and a “fierce defender of multilateral order and democratic values.” The European Union is a major trade and investment partner of Japan.
In a statement, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Abe was one of Australia’s “closest friends on the world stage.” During his first term in 2007, Abe initiated a four-way alliance between Japan, India, the U.S., and Australia that facilitated security and economic cooperation.
Outgoing U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that Abe’s “global leadership” will be remembered. “The UK stands with you at this dark and sad time,” he said.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg sent his “deepest condolences” to Abe’s family and to Kishida in a tweet. While Japan is not a NATO member, Abe paved the way for a stronger partnership with the transatlantic alliance.
A spokesperson from the Chinese embassy in Japan expressed shock about Abe’s assassination in a statement and extended condolences to his family. During his premiership, Abe tried to improve relations between Japan and China, but his comments last year about Taiwan’s independence drew criticism from Beijing.
The president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-Wen, said in a statement that “the international community lost an important leader, but Taiwan has also lost an important and close friend. Taiwan and Japan are both democratic countries with the rule of law, and our government severely condemns violent and illegal acts.”
South Korean president Yoon Suk-Yeol sent his condolences to the Japanese people, condemning the shooting as “an unforgivable act of crime.”
Abe became Japan’s longest-serving prime minister before stepping down in 2020 due to ill health. However, he has remained to be one of the most influential political figures in contemporary Japan.
On the streets of Tokyo, locals expressed disbelief. “The shooting of a prominent figure like Shinzo Abe, longest-serving prime minister in Japan, is profoundly shocking,” Kanae Hayakawa, a 36-year-old office worker, told TIME. “And now I’m afraid—the fact that such incident took place here in Japan reflects social instability and people’s discontent with society. I really hope the shooting incident will not trigger further instability here. And I also wonder how the incident will impact the election on Sunday.”
— With reporting by Mayako Shibata in Tokyo and Eloise Barry in London
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