NARA, Japan (AP) – Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a divisive archconservative and one of his country’s most powerful and influential figures, has died after he was shot dead while delivering a campaign speech in western Japan on Friday, according to the public broadcaster NHK TV.
Abe, 67, was shot from behind minutes after he began his speech in Nara. He was flown to a hospital for emergency treatment but was not breathing and his heart stopped. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital, NHK said.
Police arrested the suspected gunman at the scene of an attack that shocked many in Japan, which is one of the safest nations in the world and has some of the toughest gun control laws anywhere.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his cabinet ministers hurriedly returned to Tokyo from campaign rallies across the country after the shooting, which he described as “insidious and barbaric”.
Abe was Japan’s longest-serving leader before stepping down in 2020.
NHK aired a dramatic video of Abe giving a speech outside a train station in the western city of Nara. He is standing in a navy blue suit and raises his fist as two gunshots are heard. The video then shows Abe collapsing in the street and security guards running towards him. He’s holding his chest, his shirt is smeared with blood.
The next moment security guards jump on a man in a gray shirt lying face down on the sidewalk. A double-barreled device that looked like a hand-made weapon can be seen on the ground.
Nara Prefectural Police confirmed the arrest of Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, on suspicion of attempted murder. NHK reported that the suspect served in the Maritime Self-Defense Force for three years in the 2000s.
Other videos from the scene showed campaign officials surrounding Abe. The former leader was still very influential in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and headed its largest faction, Seiwakai. Elections to the Japanese upper house, the less powerful chamber of the Japanese parliament, will take place on Sunday.
“I use the harshest words to condemn (the act),” Kishida said as he struggled to control his emotions. He said the government plans to review the security situation, but added that Abe enjoys the highest level of protection.
Opposition leaders condemned the attack as a challenge to Japan’s democracy. In Tokyo, people stopped on the street to grab extra copies of newspapers or to watch TV coverage of the shooting.
When he stepped down as prime minister, Abe said he had a recurrence of ulcerative colitis, which he had had since he was a teenager.
He told reporters at the time that leaving many of his goals unfinished was “heartbreaking.” He spoke of his failure to resolve the problem of the Japanese kidnapped by North Korea years ago, a territorial dispute with Russia and an overhaul of Japan’s war-refusing constitution.
That last goal was a big reason why he was such a divisive figure.
His ultra-nationalism angered Korea and China, and his desire to create what he saw as a more normal defensive posture angered many Japanese. Abe was unable to achieve his lofty goal of formally rewriting the US-drafted pacifist constitution due to poor public support.
Loyalists said his legacy is a stronger US-Japan relationship that should strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities. But Abe made enemies by forcing his defense goals and other contentious issues through Parliament despite strong public opposition.
Abe was a political blue-blood primed to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. His political rhetoric often focused on making Japan a “normal” and “beautiful” nation, with a stronger military and a bigger role in international affairs.
Many foreign officials have expressed shock at the shooting.
Abe said he is proud to be working as a leader for a stronger Japan-US security alliance and to lead the first visit by a sitting US president to the atomic bombed city of Hiroshima. He also helped Tokyo win the right to host the 2020 Olympics by promising that a disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant was “under control” when it wasn’t.
Abe became Japan’s youngest prime minister in 2006 at the age of 52, but his overly nationalistic first term ended abruptly a year later, also for health reasons.
The end of Abe’s scandalous first term as prime minister marked the beginning of six years of annual leadership changes, remembered as an era of “revolving door” politics that lacked stability and long-term politics.
When he returned to office in 2012, Abe pledged to revitalize the nation and lift its economy out of its deflationary doldrums with his “Abenomics” formula, which combines fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and structural reforms.
He won six national elections and established a rock-solid grip on power, strengthening Japan’s defense role and capability and its security alliance with the US. He also increased patriotic education in schools and raised Japan’s international profile.
https://www.cbs17.com/news/ex-leader-shinzo-abe-fatally-shot-in-shock-japan-attack/ Ex-leader Shinzo Abe fatally shot in Japan attack