The assassination of Shinzo Abe, Japan’s former Prime Minster on July 8 was as shocking to the entire world as it was for India. Abe was considered a friend of India and relations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi were cordial, to say the least. As an acknowledgement of this friendship and considering the popularity and stature of Abe in Japan, he was conferred the Padma Vibhushana in 2021 by the Indian government.
The sudden shootout in the city of Nara by a gunman on an open street and during a small political rally, also showed how poor the security arrangements were around a former PM. It also showed that despite the very strict gun laws of the country, anybody could improvise a weapon, even at home these days with the help of a 3-D printer.
The gunman opened fire on Abe with what police have described as an improvised weapon.
Even as world leaders past and present expressed shock and sadness at the death of the 67-year-old former prime minister outlined the need for stricter vigilance around politicians of all hues. Abe was shot at twice while he was giving a speech on Friday morning and it was only after the shooting that security officials at the scene tackled the gunman. The 41-year-old suspect is now in police custody.
The suspect, named as Tetsuya Yamagami, admitted shooting Abe with a homemade gun, and said he had a grudge against a “specific organisation”, police said.
Several other handmade weapons, similar to those used in the attack, had been confiscated after a search of the suspect’s house, police officers told a news conference. Explosives were also found at the home and police said they had advised residents to evacuate the area.
Abe was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister and remained one of its highest-profile politicians even after stepping down in 2020.
He led the biggest faction in his governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). In August 2020, Abe, 67, stepped down from the Prime Minister’s office citing ill health, but continued to work to bolster ties with India. He was succeeded first by Yoshihide Suga (2020 to 2021) and then by Fumio Kishida (since 2021).
Born in 1954, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, Shinzo Abe, came from an elite political family. His father served as foreign minister, while his grandfather and great-uncle were both prime ministers. His grandfather Nobusuke Kishi led Japan from 1957 to 1960; his father, Shintaro Abe, served as chief cabinet secretary, often seen as the country’s second-most powerful position.
Abe won a landslide election in 2006 and served as premier for a short stint until 2007 before resuming the country’s highest political office again from 2012 to 2020. His conservative Liberal Democratic Party has dominated Japanese politics since it was founded in 1955.
A mainstay of contemporary Japanese politics, Abe first served as prime minister from 2006 to 2007. At 52, he was the youngest person to hold the office since World War II. He is credited with reviving the LDP after an electoral thrashing in 2009, imbuing it with his brand of conservatism. He returned as prime minister in 2012 and served until 2020, when he again resigned citing health issues.
He notably cultivated a close friendship with President Donald Trump when the two were in office. He was the first foreign leader to meet Trump after the 2016 election and rolled out the red carpet during the president’s 2019 state visit to Japan.
Abe fought to revive Japan, which had suffered stagnation since the crash of 1991. His time at the helm of the world’s third-largest economy was characterized by his “Abenomics” cocktail of fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and structural reforms.
Abe sought to promote Japan’s image abroad, spearheading the country’s bid to host the 2020 Olympics and seeking to bind it more closely with Washington and its allies in the Indo-Pacific.
He argued that Japan was in a dangerous world and its own neighborhood was getting riskier amid North Korea’s weapons advances and China’s military modernization. He took a hard line against China, evincing strong support for Taiwan and advocating the Beijing-claimed island’s participation in international organizations. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday described Abe as “not only a good friend but Taiwan’s steadfast ally.”
Wary of an assertive China, Abe sought to develop close ties with India and was a strong proponent of the Quad, an informal network of Japan, India, Australia and the United States viewed as a counterweight to Beijing. In the years after he left office, Abe became a particularly vocal critic of Beijing’s growing aggression in the Indo-Pacific region.
*UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it a “despicable attack”.
*US President Joe Biden: “He was a champion of the alliance between our nations and the friendship between our people. The longest serving Japanese Prime Minister, his vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific will endure. Above all, he 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.”
*Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his condolences in a message to his mother and wife. Putin said that a “criminal has claimed the life of a prominent statesman” who headed the Japanese government for a long time. He stressed that Shinzo Abe “did a lot” to enhance “good-neighbourly” ties between Japan and Russia.
*South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol called the attack an “unacceptable act of crime” and extended condolences to “the Japanese people for having lost their longest-serving prime minister and a respected politician”.
*Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said his country was shocked by the attack.
* I am shocked and saddened beyond words at the tragic demise of one of my dearest friends, Shinzo Abe. 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. Tweet by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
THE LIFE OF SHINZO ABE
Shinzo Abe was the first Japanese prime minister to have been born after World War II. He was born September 21, 1954, in Tokyo
- After graduating from Seikei University in Tokyo (1977), Abe moved to the United States, where he studied political science at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Planning, and Development for three semesters. He started working for Kobe Steel in April 1979 and later left the company in 1982.
- Shinzo Abe later moved to the United States and studied public policy at the University of Southern California’s School of Policy.
- In 1979 he returned to Japan and joined Kōbe Steel, Ltd. He subsequently became active in the Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP).
- In 1982 he began working as secretary to his father, Abe Shintaro, who was Japan’s foreign minister.
- Shinzo Abe married Akie Matsuzaki in 1987. She is a socialite and the former radio disc jockey. Matsuzaki is the daughter of the President of Morinaga, a chocolate manufacturer. Akie Abe is popularly known as the ‘domestic opposition party’ because of her outspoken views, which often contradict her husband’s.
In 1993 Abe won a seat in the lower house of the Diet (parliament) and later held a series of government posts.
- He garnered much support for his tough stance towards North Korea, especially after that country revealed in 2002 that it had kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and ’80s. Abe, who was then deputy chief cabinet secretary, oversaw the subsequent negotiations.
- In 1999 he became the Director of the Committee on Health and Welfare and also Director of the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) Social Affairs Division
- Between 2000-2003 Shinzo Abe served as the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
- In 2003 he was named secretary general of the LDP. Due to LDP term limits, prime minister and LDP leader Koizumi Junichiro was forced to leave office in 2006, and he was succeeded in both posts by Abe.
- On September 26, 2006 Abe was inaugurated as Japanese Prime Minister. Elected at age 52, he was the youngest prime minister since Fumimaro Konoe in 1941.
- In July 2007 the LDP lost its majority in the upper house to a coalition led by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), and in September Abe announced that he was resigning. He was succeeded by Fukuda Yasuo.
- Abe retained his seat in the lower house of the Diet but for several years remained quiet politically, especially after a DPJ-headed coalition took control of the government in 2009.
- However, when he was again elected leader of the LDP in September 2012.
- Following the resignation of LDP president Sadakazu Tanigaki, Abe was re-elected as president of the party on September 26, 2012.
- One of his most famous and lasting policies was Abenomics, which he launched in 2013 to jumpstart the economy after more than two decades of deflation.
- Tensions between Beijing and Tokyo were strained by Abe’s 2013 decision to visit a controversial shrine to the Japanese war dead, becoming the first prime minister to do so since 2006. Both China and South Korea consider the site to be a memorial of war atrocities committed by the Japanese in World War II.
- In April 2014, two years into his second term as prime minister, Abe featured on the cover of Time’s global edition – as a ‘patriot… (who) dreams of a more powerful, assertive Japan’.
- In 2014 the cabinet had approved a reinterpretation of the so-called peace clause of the constitution, which paved the way for it to endorse bills in May 2015 that would make it easier for Japan to use military force if the country were attacked or threatened.
- Abe prioritized the U.S.-Japan alliance, becoming the first foreign leader to meet with Donald Trump after he became president-elect in November 2016.
- A string of scandals in early 2017 pushed Abe’s popularity to record lows, but its rebound in late summer compelled him to call snap elections for the lower house in an attempt to strengthen his already formidable majority there.
- Abe became Japan’s longest-serving prime minister in November 2019.
- In August 2020 Abe announced that he would resign as prime minister due to a recurrence of ulcerative colitis, although he remained in office in a caretaker capacity pending the selection of a successor.
- On September 14, 2020, Suga Yoshihide, Abe’s chief cabinet secretary, was chosen as the new leader of the LDP, and he became prime minister two days later.