World leaders reacted Friday with outrage to the assassination of Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was shot from behind in Nara in western Japan while campaigning for his political party.
Abe, 67, was Japan’s longest serving prime minister, holding that office from 2006 to 2007 and 2012 to 2020 before stepping down due to illness. He was known for seeking to establish Japan as a more internationally outward-looking country, including stepping away from its post-World War II pacifism.
Abe’s policy focused on strengthening ties with the West and Indo-Pacific region, fostering relationships with the United States, India and Australia.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters he was lost for words after the assassination of Abe, vowing that Abe’s killing would not effect Japan’s fair and free elections.
“During this election period, a despicable and barbaric act was committed, taking the life of former prime minister Abe. This is unforgivable. We condemn it once again in the strongest terms,” Kishida told reporters, according to AFP Tokyo.
“It is truly regrettable. I am at a loss for words. I offer my sincere condolences and prayers that his soul may rest in peace,” Kishida said.
President Joe Biden
Biden said the assassination of Abe is “a tragedy for Japan and all who knew him.”
As vice president, Biden met with Abe in both Tokyo and Washington and said Abe “cared deeply about the Japanese people and dedicated his life to their service.”
“Even at the moment he was attacked, he was engaged in the work of democracy,” Biden said in a statement. “While there are many details that we do not yet know, we know that violent attacks are never acceptable and that gun violence always leaves a deep scar on the communities that are affected by it.”
Former President Barack Obama
Obama, who worked closely with Abe during his two terms as president, recalled “the moving experience of traveling to Hiroshima and Pearl Harbor together.”
“Former Prime Minister Abe was devoted to both the country he served and the extraordinary alliance between the United States and Japan,” Obama said. “I am shocked and saddened by the assassination of my friend and longtime partner.”
Former President Donald Trump
Abe was the first foreign leader Trump met as president Trump called Abe “a unifier like no other” on Truth Social, his social media platform and alternative to Twitter.
“Really BAD NEWS FOR THE WORLD! Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is dead. He was assassinated. His killer was captured and will hopefully be dealt with swiftly and harshly. Few people know what a great man and leader Shinzo Abe was, but history will teach them and be kind,” Trump said.
The two leaders were seen as close, as Abe made an effort to meet Trump early on in his presidency, and both highlighted the importance of healthy relations between the U.S. and Japan.
“Above all, he was a man who loved and cherished his magnificent country, Japan,” Trump said. “Shinzo Abe will be greatly missed. There will never be another like him!”
In China, officials offer condolences amidst nationalist sentiment over Abe
Chinese officials, including the Chinese ambassador in Japan, offered condolences over Abe’s assassination and noted his contributions to China-Japan relationships. But Chinese social media flooded with comments rejoicing over the attack.
“Let the celebrations begin!” read one post that received more than 150,000 likes in 30 minutes, Bloomberg reported.
Abe worked to improve fraught relations between the two powers during his tenure and in 2018 became the first Japanese leader to make an official state visit to China in seven years. He and Chinese premier Li Keqiang signed several agreements to forge deeper economic and political relations between the two countries.
In recent months, Abe had been more vocal in his criticism of Beijing and in support of Taiwan’s self-governance.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that the shooting shouldn’t be linked with bilateral relations.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen
Abe’s legacy included positioning Japan as a close ally to Taiwan in the face of growing influence from China. Before leaving office, Abe vowed that an attack on Taiwan would also put Japan in great danger.
Reacting to his death, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen called Abe “Taiwan’s most loyal best friend.”
“”Not only has the international community lost an important leader, but Taiwan has also lost an important and close friend,” said Tsai in a statement, according to Reuters. “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
While Abe established friendly relations with the West and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region to compete with growing Chinese influence, Japan’s relationship with South Korea remained bitter over disputes regarding forced labor and sexual slavery of Koreans in World War II.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol sent a letter of condolence to Abe’s wife, Akie Abe, and said in a tweet that the assassination was an act of terrorism “against the very foundation of democracy.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson
The British prime minister, who announced his intention to resign on Thursday, called the shooting “despicable.”
“Incredibly sad news about Shinzo Abe,” Johnson said on Twitter. “His global leadership through uncharted times will be remembered by many. My thoughts are with his family, friends and the Japanese people.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Shortly after Abe was pronounced dead, India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, tweeted a statement calling Abe a “towering global statesman.”
“I am shocked and saddened beyond words at the tragic demise of one of my dearest friends, Shinzo Abe,” Modi wrote. “He was a towering global statesman, an outstanding leader and a remarkable administrator. He dedicated his life to make Japan and the world a better place.”
The Ministry of Home Affairs announced a day of state mourning on July 9 with all flags to be flown at half-mast in honor of Abe.
President Vladimir Putin
Putin said he regularly maintained contact with Abe and wished his family “strength and courage in the face of this painful and irretrievable loss.”
“A criminal has claimed the life of a prominent statesman who led the Japanese government over a long period of time and did a lot to boost good-neighborly relations between our countries,” Putin said, according to the Russian news agency TASS.
“The bright memory of this wonderful person will always remain in the hearts of all those who knew him.”
Iran Foreign Ministry
Iran’s Foreign Ministry condemned Abe’s 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. “The previous services of Mr. Abe, as a prominent politician, including the expansion of ties between the people of Japan and Iran, will not be forgotten.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Ardern said Abe was one of the first leaders she met after being elected in 2017. She called his assassination an “unfathomable” act of violence.
“I remember after our first bilateral meeting as we were waiting for an official photo, he leaned over to tell me he was sorry my cat had passed away,” she said. “In the meetings we had in the years that followed, I saw a statesman, someone who helped usher through complex negotiations … but I also saw someone who was kind.”
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
Albanese, the leader of another country Abe sought to strengthen ties with, called him “a giant on the world stage.”
“Mr. Abe was one of Australia’s closest friends on the world stage,” Albanese said in a statement. “It was his vision that helped elevate our bilateral relationship to a Special Strategic Partnership in 2014.”
Abe established strong economic relations with Australia, which is one of Japan’s major trading partners.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.