Japan's premier Fumio Kishida vowed to never again wage war on the anniversary of Japan's World War Two surrender while members of his cabinet visited a controversial shrine to mark the date, annoying South Korea and likely also irking China. With the Yasukuni Shrine seen as a symbol of Japan's past militarism, Tokyo's ties with China are already particularly strained this year after Beijing conducted unprecedented military exercises around Taiwan following the visit there by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this month. During the drills, several missiles fell in waters inside Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone. The anniversary commemoration's links to Yasukuni, a site that honours 14 Japanese wartime leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal, as well as war dead, saw Kishida face a tricky balancing act on Monday. On the dovish side of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), his task was to avoid irking international neighbours and partners while still keeping the more right-wing members of the party happy - particularly after the killing of former premier Shinzo Abe last month. Kishida sent an offering to the central Tokyo shrine without visiting, Kyodo news agency reported. He also sent offerings to Yasukuni during festivals last year and this spring. "We will never again repeat the horrors of war. I will continue to live up to this determined oath," Kishida told a secular gathering elsewhere in Tokyo, also attended by Emperor Naruhito. "In a world where conflicts are still unabated, Japan is a proactive leader in peace," he said. In South Korea, official reaction was swift, with officials expressed "deep disappointment" and regret. "The Korean government is urging Japan's responsible people to face history and show humble reflection and genuine reflection on the past through action," a spokesperson for South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. Beijing made no official comment pending a routine briefing at the country's foreign affairs ministry later on Monday. In downtown Tokyo, people of all ages packed the shrine to pay respects despite the sultry heat. At noon, they bowed their heads for a moment of silence as cicadas buzzed. "People from various countries may say things, but this is an issue of the Japanese people, so Japanese people need to decide themselves," said Yukie Takahashi, a 60-year-old office worker. "It's a day to worship, to look back on the past, reflect on it, and pray." Among those visiting the shrine were, as usual, a small but vocal group of right-wing activists, some dressed in military uniforms and bearing flags. In a separate gesture, doves were released at the shrine as a symbol of peace. Footage on broadcaster NHK showed the shrine being visited early on Monday by several cabinet ministers, including Economic Security Minister Sanae Takaichi, along with Koichi Hagiuda, the head of the LDP's policy research council and a key Abe ally. "It is natural for any country to pay respect to those who gave their lives for their country," chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said earlier on Monday. "Japan will continue to strengthen its relations with its neighbours, including China and South Korea." A group of lawmakers that normally visit en masse on Aug 15 said last week they would not do so due to a recent surge in coronavirus cases. Abe was the last prime minister in recent memory to visit Yasukuni while in office, in 2013 - a visit that outraged both China and South Korea and even drew a rebuke from its close ally the United States. The United States and Japan have become staunch security allies in the decades since the war's end, but its legacy still haunts East Asia. Koreans, who mark the date as National Liberation Day, resent Japan's 1910-1945 colonisation of the peninsula, while China has bitter memories of imperial troops' invasion and occupation of parts of the country from 1931-1945. Kishida has pledged to substantially increase Japan's defence budget, citing the increasingly tense regional security environment, but made no mention in a recent speech of one of Abe's dreams - revising the country's pacifist constitution - although he has spoken of it before.
Bells tolled in Hiroshima yesterday as the city marked the 77th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing, with officials including the United Nations secretary-general warning of a new arms race following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb 24, and, shortly after, Russian President Vladimir Putin had obliquely raised the possibility of a nuclear strike. The conflict has also heightened concerns about the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear plants. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres joined the thousands packed into the Peace Park in the centre of the city to mark the anniversary of the bombing that killed 140,000 before the end of 1945, only the second time a UN secretary general has taken part in the annual ceremony. “Nuclear weapons are nonsense. They guarantee no safety -- only death and destruction,” Guterres said. “Three quarters of a century later, we must ask what we’ve learned from the mushroom cloud that swelled above this city in 1945.” Guterres sidestepped a direct mention of Russia, which calls its invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation.” Hiroshima mayor Kazumi Matsui, whose city this year did not invite the Russian ambassador to the ceremony, was more pointed and critical of Moscow’s military actions in Ukraine. “In invading Ukraine, the Russian leader, elected to protect the lives and property of his people, is using them as instruments of war, stealing the lives and livelihoods of civilians in a different country,” Matsui said. “Around the world, the notion that peace depends on nuclear deterrence gains momentum,” Matsui added. “These errors betray humanity’s determination, born of our experiences of war, to achieve a peaceful world free from nuclear weapons. To accept the status quo and abandon the ideal of peace maintained without military force is to threaten the very survival of the human race.” At 8:15am on Aug 6, 1945, the US B-29 warplane Enola Gay dropped a bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” and obliterated the city with an estimated population of 350,000. Thousands more died later from injuries and radiation-related illnesses. On Saturday, as cicadas shrilled in the heavy summer air, the Peace Bell sounded and the crowd, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is from Hiroshima, observed a moment of silence at the exact time the bomb exploded. “At the start of this year, the five nuclear-weapon states issued a joint statement: ‘Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,’” Matsui added. “Why do they not attempt to fulfil their promises? Why do some even hint at using nuclear weapons?” On Thursday, Russian ambassador to Japan Mikhail Galuzin offered flowers at a memorial stone in the park and told reporters his nation would never use nuclear weapons. Kishida, who has chosen Hiroshima as the site of next year’s Group of Seven summit, called on the world to abandon nuclear weapons.
Japanese defence forces will participate for the first time in military exercises in Indonesia next month alongside the United States and Australia, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said yesterday after talks with Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Japan’s involvement comes as Washington and its regional allies step up efforts to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region. Japan has recently been putting heavy diplomatic emphasis on maintaining a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” and Kishida visited the region, including Indonesia, earlier this year. The meeting between Kishida and Jokowi, as he is popularly known, came a day after the Indonesian president made a rare visit to China for a summit with President Xi Jinping in which the two pledged to scale up trade and expand cooperation in areas such as agriculture and food security. “Indonesia shares fundamental values with us as well as strategic goals, it is a strategic partner,” Kishida told a news conference after the two met. He said Japan’s Self-Defence Forces will take part in the Garuda Shield joint military exercises to be held in Indonesia from Aug 1 with the United States, Australia and others. It will be the first time that Japan has participated. The annual exercises, typically between Indonesia and the United States, will be “significantly larger in scope and scale” than in previous years, the United States has said. Japan also would loan the Indonesian government 43.6bn yen ($318mn) for infrastructure projects and disaster prevention, Kishida said, along with co-operating in areas including energy. In his remarks, Jokowi emphasised practical aspects of bilateral ties and mentioned that the two nations had agreed to changes in an Indonesia-Japan economic partnership agreement to be signed later this year, although he did not specify details. Renegotiations on the agreement, concluded in 2007, are aimed at expanding access to Japanese markets and reducing tariffs. “I ask for Japan to support the reduction of tariffs on some products such as tuna, bananas, pineapple, and market access to mango products,” Jokowi said. Indonesia’s imports from Japan totalled $9.2bn in 2020, while its exports to Japan stood at $14.5bn, according to IMF data compiled by Refinitiv. Indonesia’s economics ministry said yesterday that Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp plans to invest 27.1tn rupiah ($1.8bn) in Indonesia in the next five years to produce electric vehicles. On Tuesday, Indonesia’s chief economics minister said Mitsubishi Motors Corp plans to invest about 10tn rupiah in Indonesia between 2022 and 2025. Jokowi met Emperor Naruhito later.
Japan on Tuesday executed a man convicted of killing seven people in a truck ramming and stabbing rampage in Tokyo's popular Akihabara electronics district in 2008, the justice ministry said. Justice Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa said Tomohiro Kato had undertaken "meticulous preparation" for the attack and displayed a "strong intent to kill". Furukawa said he "approved the execution after extremely thorough scrutiny," noting that Kato's death sentence had been upheld by the court system. Kato went on the rampage on June 8, 2008, telling police: "I came to Akihabara to kill people. It didn't matter who I'd kill." He was arrested on the spot shortly after the attacks, in which he rammed a rented two-tonne truck into a crowd of pedestrians before getting out and randomly stabbing people. "This is a very painful case that led to extremely grave consequences and shocked society," Furukawa said Tuesday. Police said Kato documented his deadly journey to Akihabara on Internet bulletin boards, typing messages on a mobile phone from behind the wheel of the truck and complaining of his unstable job and his loneliness. Prosecutors said his self-confidence plummeted after a woman he chatted with online abruptly stopped emailing him when he sent her a photograph of himself. His anger against the general public grew when his comments on an Internet bulletin board, including his plans to go on a killing spree, were met with no reaction at all, prosecutors said. While awaiting trial, Kato wrote to a 56-year-old taxi driver whom he injured in the stabbing spree, expressing his remorse. The victims "were enjoying their lives, and they had dreams, bright futures, warm families, lovers, friends and colleagues," Kato wrote according to a copy published in the Shukan Asahi weekly. And in court, he offered remorse for the attack. "Please let me use this occasion to apologise," he said about the bloody rampage that also left 10 people injured. - Support for death penalty - After the 2008 rampage, Japan banned possession of double-edged knives with blades longer than 5.5 centimetres (about two inches), punishable by up to three years in prison or a 500,000 yen fine. The attack was Japan's worst mass killing in seven years and Kato was sentenced to death in 2011, a decision that was upheld by Japan's top court in 2015. Kato's execution is the first in Japan this year and comes after three prisoners were hanged in December 2021. Those executions ended a two-year hiatus and were the first under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's administration. Japan is one of the few developed countries to retain the death penalty, and public support for capital punishment remains high despite international criticism. Executions are carried out by hanging, generally long after sentencing. More than 100 people are currently on death row in Japan. International advocacy groups have denounced the Japanese system, under which death row inmates can wait for their executions for many years in solitary confinement and are only told of their impending death a few hours ahead of time. But Furukawa defended the death penalty on Tuesday. The government believes it is "not appropriate" to abolish capital punishment, given "heinous crimes such as mass killings and robbery-murders still repeatedly occur", he told reporters. Junichi Kuwabara, a 54-year-old Tokyo resident, told AFP he was thinking of "how the families of the victims must be feeling." "I think it would have been better if it had been done earlier," he said. And while he expressed discomfort with the idea of the death penalty, he said "if it can bring justice to relatives of the victims, I think it's good." Tuesday's execution comes on the anniversary of another major stabbing attack -- the 2016 Sagamihara rampage at a disabled care facility, in which 19 people were killed. Japan also carried out the executions of six members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult responsible for the 1995 sarin attack and other crimes on July 26, 2018.
A volcano on Japan’s major western island of Kyushu erupted yesterday evening, sending black smoke billowing high into the air, but there were no immediate reports of any damage or injuries, and authorities said they did not expect a major eruption. The volcano, which is called Sakurajima and is located on the southern tip of Kyushu near the city of Kagoshima, erupted about 8.05pm (1105 GMT), the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) said. Volcanic stones rained down at a distance of 2.5km (1.5 miles) from the volcano, a JMA official said. Television footage showed red-hot rocks and dark plumes exploding from Sakurajima volcano. The eruption alert level has been raised to five, the highest, with some areas advised to evacuate, he added, but no large eruption was expected. Previously it was at level three, which bans entry to the mountain. Sakurajima is one of Japan’s most active volcanoes and eruptions of varying levels take place on a regular basis. In 2019 it spewed ash 5.5km (3.4 miles) high. There were no immediate reports of damage from yesterday’s eruption, deputy chief cabinet secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki told a news conference, as government officials sought more information on the situation. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has instructed the government “to work closely with the local municipality to ensure damage prevention, such as through evacuations”, Isozaki said. Nuclear regulators said there were no irregularities detected at the Sendai atomic plant, which lies about 50km (31 miles) from the volcano. The JMA said rain is expected in some areas near the volcano today but not the kind of heavy rain that could cause mudslides following the eruption. Most of the city of Kagoshima is across the bay from the volcano but several residential areas within about 3km (1.9 miles) of the crater may be ordered to evacuate depending on the situation, NHK said. It later reported that 51 people in the vicinity were being evacuated. “Residential areas of Arimura town and Furusato town within 3km of the summit crater ... of Sakurajima should be on high alert,” Tsuyoshi Nakatsuji of the JMA’s Volcanic Observation Division told reporters. According to Kagoshima City, there are 77 residents in the two towns. Nakatsuji said the JMA last week had observed the swelling of the volcano, which signals the accumulation of magma. “But the swelling hasn’t been resolved after the latest eruption,” he said. “We’ll carefully monitor this.” Japan has scores of active volcanoes and sits on the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire” where a large proportion of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are recorded. Sakurajima was formerly an island, but due to previous eruptions is now attached to a peninsula. Japan last issued the top evacuation alert for a volcano when Kuchinoerabu island, also in Kagoshima, erupted in 2015.
A volcano on Japan's major western island of Kyushu erupted on Sunday evening, sending black smoke billowing high into the air, but there were no immediate reports of any damage or injuries, and authorities said they did not expect a major eruption. The volcano, which is called Sakurajima and is located on the southern tip of Kyushu near the city of Kagoshima, erupted at about 8:05 p.m. (1105 GMT), the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) said. Volcanic stones rained down at a distance of 2.5 km from the volcano, a JMA official said. The eruption alert level has been raised to 5, the highest, with some areas advised to evacuate, he added, but no large eruption was expected. Sakurajima is one of Japan's most active volcanoes and eruptions of varying levels take place on a regular basis. In 2019 it spewed ash 5.5 km high. There were no immediate reports of damage from Sunday's eruption, deputy chief cabinet secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki told a news conference, as government officials sought more information on the situation. Nuclear regulators said there were no irregularities detected at the Sendai atomic plant, which lies about 50 km from the volcano. Video footage showed what appeared to be a red mass flowing down one side of the volcano, with red projectiles shooting upwards. The JMA said rain was expected in some areas near the volcano on Monday but not the kind of heavy rain that could cause mudslides following the eruption. Most of the city of Kagoshima is across the bay from the volcano but several residential areas within about 3 km of the crater may be ordered to evacuate depending on the situation, NHK said. It later reported that 51 people in the vicinity were being evacuated.
The man accused of assassinating Japan's former prime minister Shinzo Abe is set to undergo an examination of his mental condition around the time of the incident, local media reported Saturday. Abe was gunned down on the campaign trail on July 8 in the western city of Nara, two days before the country's upper house elections. His accused killer Tetsuya Yamagami is in custody and reportedly targeted Abe because he believed the former leader was linked to the Unification Church. On Friday, the Nara District Court approved a request by the local public prosecutors office for a psychiatric examination of 41-year-old Yamagami, the Asahi Shimbun and other local media reported, citing unnamed investigative sources. The examination is expected to wrap up in late November, the reports said. Investigative questioning of the suspect will be halted during the mental examination. Prosecutors will determine whether Yamagami can bear criminal liability based on the examination before making a decision on whether to indict him, the reports said. Abe was Japan's best-known politician, maintaining a prominent place in public life even after resigning in 2020 for health reasons. He was also a divisive figure who faced cronyism allegations and was criticised for his staunch nationalist views. Prosecution and court officials could not immediately be reached to confirm the local media reports.
Mourners lined the streets of central Tokyo yesterday to bid farewell to assassinated former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, as his hearse was driven past political landmarks after a private funeral. The country’s longest-serving prime minister was gunned down on Friday while campaigning, in a crime that rattled Japan and prompted an outpouring of international condemnation and grief. His funeral was held at Tokyo’s Zojoji temple yesterday, with relatives and close acquaintances in attendance. But elsewhere in the temple compound, thousands of well-wishers lined up in the humid heat to pay their respects before a photo of the late leader, who held office until 2020. “I can’t get over my sadness, so I came here to lay flowers,” consultant Tsukasa Yokawa, 41, said, describing Abe as “a great prime minister who did a lot to elevate Japan’s presence” globally. After the service, a hearse carrying Abe’s body departed for a final tour of some of the political landmarks he served in: the parliament, the prime minister’s office and the headquarters of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Residents gathered along the route, while staff and officials, including ministers and senior LDP figures, stood sombrely outside each venue. They pressed their hands together and bowed their heads in respect as the car arrived. Abe’s widow Akie sat in the front of the hearse – carrying her husband’s mortuary tablet inscribed with his posthumous Buddhist name – and bowed back. Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi, Abe’s brother, called the murder “an act of terrorism” yesterday. “I’ve lost my brother. At the same time, Japan has lost an irreplaceable leader,” he tweeted. “My brother loved Japan and risked his life to be a politician and protect this nation.” In a speech at the funeral, 81-year-old Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso recalled drinking and playing golf with his close ally. “You were supposed to read an eulogy for me. This is very painful,” he said, according to Japanese media. Abe was campaigning in the western city of Nara when he was shot. The murder suspect, 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, is in custody and has told police he targeted Abe because he believed the politician was linked to an organisation he resented. Yamagami approached him from behind in broad daylight, in circumstances that have raised questions about security. Satoshi Ninoyu, the chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, a cabinet position overseeing national police, pledged yesterday to hold a full review of any security failings. Local police have already admitted flaws in their guarding programme for the high-profile politician. Police searches of the suspect’s home have found pellets and other possible components for building a gun like the crude weapon used in the attack, Japanese media reported yesterday, citing unnamed investigative sources. Yamagami spent three years in Japan’s navy and reportedly told investigators that his mother’s large donations to a religious organisation had caused the family financial troubles. The Unification Church, a global religious movement founded in Korea in the 1950s, said on Monday that Yamagami’s mother was a member, but did not comment on any donations she may have made. Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said yesterday that more than 1,700 condolence messages had been received from 259 countries, territories and international bodies. On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a previously unscheduled stop in Tokyo to pay tribute to Abe, describing him as a “man of vision”. And Taiwanese Vice President William Lai was also in Tokyo for a surprise trip, Taiwanese media said. Public memorials for Abe, 67, are expected to be held at a later date. Abe, the scion of a political family, took power for the first time in 2006, and resigned for health reasons in 2020 at the end of his second stint at the helm. His hawkish, nationalist views were divisive, and he weathered a series of scandals including allegations of cronyism, but he was lauded by others for his economic strategy and efforts to put Japan firmly on the world stage.
Sri Lanka’s parliament will elect a new president on July 20, its speaker said yesterday, after protesters stormed the residences of the current president and prime minister, who have both offered to quit amid an economic meltdown. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who had overseen a ruthless crushing of the Tamil Tigers insurgents as defence secretary, is set to resign tomorrow. His brothers and nephew earlier quit as ministers as Sri Lanka began running out of fuel, food and other essentials in the worst crisis since independence from Britain in 1948. Parliament will reconvene on Friday and will vote to elect a new president five days later, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said in a statement. “During the party leaders’ meeting held today it was agreed that this was essential to ensure a new all-party government is in place in accordance with the Constitution,” the statement added. “The ruling party has said the prime minister and the Cabinet are ready to resign to appoint an all-party government” Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, whose private home was set alight by protesters, has said he will step down. His office said Rajapaksa had confirmed his resignation plans to the prime minister, adding that the cabinet would resign once a deal was reached to form an all-party government. The political instability could damage negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a rescue package, the central bank governor told Reuters. Governor P Nandalal Weerasinghe signalled he would stay on in the job although he had said in May he could resign if there was no political stability in the island nation of 22mn. Leaders of the protest movement have said crowds will occupy the residences of the president and prime minister in Colombo until they finally quit office. Over the weekend at the president’s house, protesters jumped into the swimming pool, lounged on a four-poster bed, jostled for turns on a treadmill and tried out the sofas. Colombo was calm yesterday as hundreds of people strolled into the president’s secretariat and residence and toured the colonial-era buildings. Police made no attempt to intervene. “We are not going anywhere till this president leaves and we have a government that is acceptable to the people,” said Jude Hansana, 31, who has been at a protest site outside the residence since early April. Another protester, Dushantha Gunasinghe, said he had travelled 130km to Colombo, walking part of the way because of a fuel crunch. “I’m so exhausted I can barely speak,” said the 28-year-old as he sat outside the president’s office. “I came alone all this way because I believe we need to see this through. This government needs to go home and we need better leaders.” Police said they had received 17.8mn rupees (about $50,000) found by a group of protesters at the president’s residence on Saturday. A video of the youngsters counting out the cash went viral on social media. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a smooth transition of government and “sustainable solutions” to the economic crisis. Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa, whose Samagi Jana Balawegaya party holds 54 seats in the 225-member parliament, said it was ready to step into the government. “We as the opposition are ready to provide leadership to stabilise the country and rebuild the economy,” he said.”We will appoint a new president, prime minister and form a government.” Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe were not in their residences when the protesters surged into the buildings and have not been seen in public since Friday. Rajapaksa’s whereabouts were not clear, but Wickremesinghe’s media team said in a statement he held a meeting with cabinet ministers at the prime minister’s office yesterday. Wickremesinghe’s private home in an affluent Colombo suburb was set on fire on Saturday, and three suspects have been arrested. Constitutional experts say once the president and prime minister resign, the speaker will be appointed as acting president before parliament votes in a new president to complete Rajapaksa’s term that was to end in 2024. Sri Lankans have mainly blamed Rajapaksa for the collapse of the tourism-dependent economy, which was hammered badly by the Covid-19 pandemic and a ban on chemical fertilisers that damaged farm output. The ban was later reversed. Government finances were crippled by mounting debt and lavish tax breaks given by the Rajapaksa regime. Foreign exchange reserves were quickly depleted as oil prices rose.
Mourners streamed into a temple in Tokyo to pay their respects to Japan’s slain former premier Shinzo Abe yesterday, as his assassination overshadowed an election win for the ruling party he had dominated. Current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who has the chance to cement his own power following Sunday’s election gains, and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen were among the hundreds at Abe’s wake, three days after he was shot at an election rally. A private funeral for Abe, who resigned in 2020 and was Japan’s longest-serving premier, is scheduled for today. “There is a profound sense of sorrow at his loss,” Yellen told reporters outside the temple, where she placed incense in Abe’s honour and greeted his family. “Prime Minister Abe was a visionary leader and he strengthened Japan...I know that his legacy will live on,” she added. Abe’s shooting shocked a nation where political violence and gun crime is rare. The suspected killer, arrested at the scene and identified by police as 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, believed Abe had promoted a religious group to which his mother made a “huge donation”, Kyodo news agency has said, citing investigators. The Unification Church, a controversial group known for its mass weddings and devoted following, said yesterday the suspect’s mother was one of its members. Neither Abe nor Yamagami were members of the church, said Tomihiro Tanaka, president of its Japan branch, adding that it would co-operate with police if asked to do so. Reuters was not immediately able to contact Yamagami’s mother and could not determine whether she belonged to any other religious organisations. SOMBRE VICTORY In elections held on Sunday, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its ruling coalition partner extended their majority in the upper house of parliament. With a majority already in place in the lower house, what would have been a celebratory mood at LDP headquarters in usual circumstances turned sombre. A moment of silence for Abe was offered in his memory, and Kishida’s face remained grim as he pinned rosettes next to winning candidates’ names on a board in a symbol of their victory. Abe’s death has drawn condolences from leaders around the world, from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth to Chinese Premier Xi Jinping. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Kishida during a brief stopover yesterday to offer messages of support on behalf of President Joe Biden. Vice President William Lai became Taiwan’s most senior official to visit Japan in five decades as he made a private trip to Tokyo to pay his respects. At the wake, a line of black sedan cars, including several with diplomatic plates, dropped off dignitaries and family at Tokyo’s Zojoji temple, where the ex-premier’s body lay. Dressed in black, some of those gathered mopped their brows as they queued beneath the steps leading to the temple in the sultry evening air. A part of the temple was also open to members of the public who crowded in to lay flowers. “I feel so sad that a prime minister who dedicated himself for Japan died this way,” said Naoya Okamoto, a 28-year-old who works in construction. “He was the prime minister who demonstrated to the world a strong Japan once again.” Abe remained influential in the LDP party even after he stepped down in 2020 citing ill health. The LDP and its junior partner Komeito won 76 of the 125 seats contested in the chamber, up from 69 previously. The LDP alone won 63 seats, up from 55, to win a majority of the contested seats, though it fell short of a simple majority on its own. With no elections set for another three years, Kishida, an Abe protege, now has an unusually long breathing space to attempt to implement his own agenda.
The mother of the man arrested for the killing of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe is a member of the Unification Church, the head of its Japanese arm said on Monday. Tetsuya Yamagami, an unemployed 41-year-old, has been identified by police as the suspect who approached Abe and opened fire during a campaign speech on Friday. Yamagami believed Abe had promoted a religious group to which his mother made a "huge donation", Kyodo news agency has said, citing investigative sources. Yamagami told police his mother went bankrupt from the donation, the Yomiuri newspaper and other media have reported. Tomihiro Tanaka, president of the Japanese branch of Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, known as the Unification Church, told reporters in Tokyo that Yamagami's mother was a church member. Tanaka declined to comment on her donations, citing the ongoing police investigation. Neither Abe nor the man arrested for his shooting were members of the church, Tanaka said. Nor was Abe an adviser to the church, Tanaka said, adding that it would cooperate with police on the investigation if asked to do so. Reuters was not able to contact Yamagami's mother and could not determine whether she belonged to any other religious organisations. The Unification Church was founded in South Korea in 1954 by Sun Myung Moon, a self-declared messiah and strident anti-communist. It has gained global media attention for its mass weddings where it marries thousands of couples at a time. The church's affiliates include daily newspapers in South Korea, Japan and the United States. Moon ran a business empire and founded the conservative Washington Times newspaper. Abe, who was known for his conservative views, appeared at an event hosted by an organisation affiliated with the church last September and delivered a speech praising the affiliate's work towards peace on the Korean peninsula, according to the church's website. Critics have for years said the church is a cult and questioned what they say are murky finances. The church rejects such views and says it is a legitimate religious movement. Police have confirmed that the suspect said he held a grudge against a specific organisation, but they have not named it. QUIET LIFE Reuters visited the home of Yamagami's mother in Nara on Monday. The white house is tucked away at the end of a quiet cul de sac in a well-to-do neighbourhood one stop on the train from where Abe was gunned down. She did not appear to be at home. Two policemen sat outside in an unmarked car. A next door neighbour, a woman who only gave her surname Ishii, said she did not know the family and had only ever greeted the mother. "I don't see her around much, I say hello, but that is all," she said, adding that the mother appeared to live a quiet life. Another neighbour, an 87-year-old woman who only gave her surname Tanida, said the mother had lived alone for a long time. Yamagami's mother first joined the church around 1998 but stopped attendance between 2009 and 2017, Tanaka said. About two to three years ago she re-established communication with church members and in the last half year or so has been attending church events about once a month, he said. Tanaka said the church learned of the mother's financial difficulties only after talking to those close to her. He said he did not know what caused those difficulties. Nara police on Monday said they found apparent bullet holes at a facility run by the church, and that the suspect told them he had fired practice rounds at the facility the day before he shot Abe. Two people who lived near the group's biggest church in Nara prefecture, which is also the one closest to Yamagami's house, told Reuters it had been quiet since Saturday. Normally weekends are busy with members attending services, they said. They had not heard any loud bangs, they said. ABE'S GRANDFATHER Tanaka said Abe had sent messages to events held by church affiliates and expressed support for its global peace movement. Moon, who spoke fluent Japanese, launched an anti-communist political campaign in Japan from late 1960s and built relations with Japanese politicians, according to the church's publications. Nobusuke Kishi, Abe's maternal grandfather and a former prime minister, was an honourary executive chair for a group banquet hosted by Moon, the International Federation for Victory over Communism said on its website. Moon died in 2012. The church has about 600,000 members in Japan, out of 10 million globally, a spokesperson for the church said.
Japan’s conservative coalition government was projected to increase its majority in the upper house of parliament in an election yesterday, two days after the assassination of dominant politician and power broker Shinzo Abe. Abe, Japan’s longest-serving modern leader, was gunned down on Friday during a campaign speech in the western city of Nara in a killing that stunned a country where political violence and gun crime are rare. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), of which Abe remained an influential lawmaker, and its junior partner Komeito were on track to win 69 to 83 of the 125 seats contested in the chamber, from 69 previously, according to an exit poll by public broadcaster NHK. Elections for parliament’s less powerful upper house are typically a referendum on the sitting government. Change of government was not at stake, as that is determined by the lower house. But the strong showing could help Kishida consolidate his rule as he looks to steer Japan’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, keep a lid on rising consumer prices, and bolster defence at a time of tension with its powerful neighbour China. Final results are due today. “It’s significant we were able to pull this election together at a time violence was shaking the foundations of the election,” Kishida, an Abe protege, said after the exit poll. “Right now, as we face issues including the coronavirus, Ukraine, and inflation, solidarity within the government and coalition parties is vital,” he added. The party held a moment of silence for Abe at its Tokyo headquarters as members waited for results to come in. The LDP was projected to win as many as 69 seats, according to the exit poll, which would give it a majority even without Komeito. Its gains might allow Kishida to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution, a dream Abe never achieved. Parties open to revising the constitution were projected to maintain their two-thirds majority in the upper house. Kishida may move cautiously on constitutional change, but the apparent victory looked set to pave the way for more defence spending, a key LDP election promise, said Robert Ward of the International Institute of Strategic Studies. Kishida “now has a green light for this”, Ward said. Asked about constitutional revision yesterday evening, Kishida said he would focus on putting together a bill to be discussed in parliament. People close to Kishida have said his team also wants to gradually phase out “Abenomics”, Japan’s signature economic policy of government spending and monetary stimulus named after the ex-premier who started the experiment nearly a decade ago. Kishida may now have the political capital to change course, analysts said.
Japanese police yesterday admitted there were “problems” with security for former prime minister Shinzo Abe, as his body arrived at his family home a day after he was assassinated on the campaign trail. The country was in mourning for Japan’s longest-serving premier and well-wishers gathered to pay their respects, with senior politicians dressed in black arriving at Abe’s Tokyo residence to offer condolences. But candidates also continued campaigning for the upper house election today, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida insisting: “We must never allow violence to suppress speech during elections, which are the foundation of democracy.” The murder of Japan’s best-known politician has rattled the country and sent shockwaves around the world, particularly given the nation’s low levels of violent crime and strict gun laws. Police are still piecing together details of the man who opened fire at close range on Friday, but the 41-year-old named as Tetsuya Yamaguchi has confessed to killing the former premier, motivated by a belief Abe was linked to an unspecified organisation. The tearful head of police in the Nara region where Abe was killed admitted yesterday there were “undeniable” flaws in security for the former leader. “I believe it is undeniable that there were problems with the guarding and safety measures for former prime minister Abe,” said Tomoaki Onizuka, head of the Nara prefectural police, pledging a “thorough investigation.” “In all the years since I became a police officer in 1995...there is no greater remorse, no bigger regret than this,” he said. Early yesterday afternoon, Abe’s body arrived at his home, where mourners like Tetsuya Hamada gathered to offer prayers and flowers. “I am stunned that things like this still take place in Japan,” he told AFP. “It makes me sad. How it is possible that this happened in broad daylight?” Japan’s upper house election will go ahead as planned today, and Kishida calling on supporters to “help us until the very end.” But Abe’s death cast a long shadow, and at the scene of his murder, 52-year-old Kayoko Ueda was wiping away tears and described herself as “distraught”. “I couldn’t believe something like this could actually happen in Japan,” she said. Yamagami’s motives remain unclear, with police declining so far to identify the organisation he believed Abe had links to. They are investigating claims Yamagami served in Japan’s navy, and said he appeared to have used a handmade gun. National broadcaster NHK said he described months of planning for the attack, including an original plot involving explosives that was later shelved in favour of building guns. Citing police sources, the station said Yamagami also claimed to have scouted out Abe at other speeches. Security at local campaign events in Japan can be relatively relaxed, but given Abe’s profile, questions have been raised about whether measures to protect him were too lax. Dramatic footage of the attack showed Yamaguchi, dressed in a grey shirt and brown trousers, was able to approach Abe from behind without being intercepted, and draw a weapon from a bag. He appeared to fire two shots, each producing a cloud of smoke. Doctors who treated Abe said he sustained multiple wounds to his neck and the internal damage from the shooting reached as deep as his heart. He died of blood loss, despite receiving massive transfusions. International reaction to Abe’s death was swift and stark, with US President Joe Biden saying he was “stunned, outraged and deeply saddened”, and ordering flags on US government buildings to fly at half-mast. Even regional powers with whom Abe had clashed expressed condolences. Chinese President Xi Jinping said he was “deeply saddened” by the killing, which South Korea’s president called an “unacceptable act”.
Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) could receive a surge of support in an upper house election today following the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the party’s leading statesman and power broker. Abe, Japan’s longest-serving modern leader, was gunned down on Friday during a speech in support of a local candidate in the western city of Nara — a killing the political establishment condemned as an attack on democracy itself. Elections for seats in parliament’s less powerful upper house are typically seen as a referendum on the sitting government, and the latest opinion polls already pointed to a strong showing for the ruling bloc led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida — an Abe protege. As the nation mourns, both the LDP and its junior coalition partner Komeito could gain from a potential wave of sympathy votes, political analysts said. “The ruling LDP-Komeito coalition was already on course for a solid victory,” James Brady of the Teneo consultancy said in a note.”A wave of sympathy votes now could boost the margin of victory.” Campaigning was halted on Friday after Abe’s killing, but politicians resumed pre-election activities yesterday. There was an increased police presence when Kishida appeared at a campaign event in a city southwest of Tokyo and a metal detection scanner was installed at the venue — an unusual security measure in Japan. A strong showing at the polls could help Kishida consolidate his rule, giving the former banker from Hiroshima a chance to carry out his goal of boosting defence spending. It might also allow him to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution — something even the hawkish Abe was never able to achieve. “In the months ahead, the government is certain to seek to strengthen domestic security,” Brady said. “By undermining the public’s general sense of safety and order, the event could also add further momentum to those key Abe causes like defence build-up and constitutional revision,” he added. Polls last week showed the LDP winning at least 60 of the 125 seats being contested today, compared with the 55 it now holds, allowing it to maintain the majority in the chamber that it holds with Komeito. Reaching 69 seats in the upper house would give the LDP a majority, a threshold that had been seen as a stretch prior to Abe’s killing. Kishida, once on the more dovish side of the LDP, has shifted towards the right and said parts of the constitution may have elements that “are outdated and lacking”. Opinion polls show a majority of voters favour greater military strength. But even a strong LDP performance will be overshadowed by the murder of Abe, who as leader of its largest faction still wielded considerable strength over policy and personnel decisions. His death raises the spectre of a power vacuum and potential turmoil within the party, analysts said. The small, populist Japan Innovation Party, which gained seats in a general election last year, could siphon off votes from the LDP. But since the party also backs constitutional revision, any advances it makes would be likely to bolster the LDP’s reform goals.
* Former premier shot Friday during campaign speech * Political violence, gun crime extremely rare in Japan * Security measures ramp up ahead of Sunday elections Police acknowledged security flaws on Saturday in the Japanese city of Nara where former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated, as a motorcade carrying his body arrived at his home in the capital Tokyo. Mourners gathered at his residence and at the scene of Friday's tragedy in the western city of Nara, where Japan's longest-serving modern leader was gunned down in a rare act of political violence while making a campaign speech. Police arrested a 41-year-old man immediately after Abe was shot at close range with a homemade gun. The local police force manning the campaign event said on Saturday that there had been shortcomings in the security arrangements. "We can't deny that there were problems with the security plan given how things ended," Nara prefectural police chief Tomoaki Onizuka told a news conference. "I feel a grave sense of responsibility," he said, adding that police would analyse what exactly went wrong and implement any necessary changes. Dignitaries in Japan often travel with modest security details focused mainly on direct physical threats rather than by heavily armed personnel braced for firearms attacks seen in places such as the United States. On Friday, Nippon Television quoted Nara police as saying Abe was protected at the rally by one armed specialised police officer and some other local officers. Nara police declined to say how many police officers were handling Abe's security. Elections for seats in Japan's upper house of parliament are going ahead as scheduled on Sunday, with the vote expected to deliver victory to the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, an Abe protege. Kishida was back on the campaign trail visiting regional constituencies after making an emergency return to Tokyo on Friday after the shooting. A metal detection scanner, not normally seen at election events in largely crime-free Japan, was installed at a site in the city of Fujiyoshida where Kishida was due to give a campaign speech. There was also a heavy police presence. In Nara, some 450 km southwest of Tokyo, a stream of people queued up to lay flowers on a table beside a photograph of Abe. "I'm just shocked that this kind of thing happened in Nara," said Natsumi Niwa, a 50-year-old housewife, after laying flowers with her 10-year-old son near the scene of the killing outside a downtown train station. Niwa said Abe, a conservative and architect of the "Abenomics" policies aimed at reflating the economy, had inspired the name of her son, Masakuni. Abe used to hail Japan as a "beautiful nation". "Kuni" means nation in Japanese. A night vigil is due to be held on Monday. Abe's funeral will take place on Tuesday, attended by close friends, media said. There was no immediate word on any public memorial service. Police were scrambling to piece together details of the suspect's motive and his preparations for the crime. The suspect believed the former Japanese leader was linked to a religious group he blamed for his mother's financial ruin, police told local media on Saturday, without identifying the group. He spent months plotting the attack, even attending other Abe campaign events, including one a day earlier some 200 km away, media reported. Analysts said the gun he used was easy to make from readily available materials such as wood and metal pipes, showing the difficulty in eliminating such threats even in a country where tough laws mean it is rare for citizens to buy or own firearms. Abe's killing "heightens the prospect for stronger turnout and greater support for his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)", in Sunday's election, Eurasia Group analysts wrote in a note. The LDP, where Abe retained considerable influence, had already been expected to gain seats before the assassination. Abe, 67, served twice as prime minister, stepping down citing ill health on both occasions. But he remained a member of parliament and influential leader in the LDP after stepping down for the second time in 2020. A strong election performance by the LDP "could catalyse Kishida to push for Abe's unfulfilled goal of amending Japan's constitution to allow for a stronger role for the military", James Brady, vice president at advisory firm Teneo, wrote in a note. Kishida visited Abe's residence in Tokyo to pay his respects on Saturday, the Kyodo news agency reported, alongside mourners clutching flowers and party officials who bowed as the hearse carrying his body arrived. Abe's death has drawn condolences from across political divides, and from around the world. The Quad, a group of countries aimed at countering China's influence in the Indo-Pacific region which Abe was instrumental in setting up, expressed shock at the assassination in a joint statement. "We will honour Prime Minister Abe's memory by redoubling our work towards a peaceful and prosperous region," said the group, which includes Japan, India, Australia and the United States. Chinese President Xi Jinping also paid tribute to Abe, who he said worked hard to improve relations between the neighbours, Chinese state media reported.
Britain’s Labour party has threatened a bid to force Prime Minister Boris Johnson out of Downing Street immediately, following his resignation in the face of a cabinet uprising. Johnson quit as leader of the ruling Conservative party on Thursday, after a frenzy of nearly 60 resignations in less than 48 hours in opposition to his scandal-hit reign. However, the 58-year-old, whose three-year premiership has been defined by Britain’s departure from the European Union and the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, said he would stay on until his successor is found. Former finance minister Rishi Sunak, whose resignation on Tuesday was instrumental in Johnson’s demise, meanwhile launched his bid for the top job. “Let’s restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country,” the multimillionaire said, presenting a slick video on social media at the start of what could be a months-long campaign. The defence minister, Ben Wallace, who is also expected to declare, according to the Daily Telegraph, and Sunak are among the early frontrunners, a YouGov poll of Tory members suggested. However, calls mounted for Johnson to leave straight away and for an acting leader to be appointed in the interim. Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said the main opposition party aimed to trigger a vote of no confidence in parliament if the Tories do not get rid of Johnson immediately. “He’s a proven liar who’s engulfed in sleaze and we can’t have another couple of months of this,” she told BBC radio. “If they don’t, we will call a no-confidence vote because it’s pretty clear he hasn’t got the confidence of the House (of Commons) or the British public.” To do so, Labour would need the support of dozens of Conservative MPs. However, the strategy is fraught as it could trigger a general election, and the danger of Tory MPs losing their seats, if Johnson is defeated. Johnson’s spokesman said there was no question of Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab taking over as caretaker. “The prime minister is acting in line with convention. He remains prime minister until a new party leader is in place and the work of the government will continue whilst that takes place,” he told journalists. A timetable for the leadership contest is expected on Monday, with the winner installed in time for the party’s annual conference in early October. As well as Sunak, Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat and Attorney-General Suella Braverman have also both officially announced their candidatures. Former health and foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, who lost to Johnson in 2019, was “virtually certain” to run again, a source close to Hunt told British media. In a defiant resignation speech in Downing Street on Thursday, Johnson said he was “sad ... to be giving up the best job in the world”. However, he said he initially refused to surrender to his “herd” of Tory critics by claiming a personal mandate he won by a landslide in December 2019. Even while eyeing the exit, Johnson sought to steady the ship, making several appointments to replace departed cabinet members. At a first meeting of his hastily convened new top team, Johnson confirmed his lame-duck status by saying “major fiscal decisions should be left for the next prime minister”, Downing Street said. Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid prompted the exodus by quitting late on Tuesday, just as Johnson apologised for appointing a senior colleague facing sexual assault claims to a prominent role. Chris Pincher resigned as deputy chief whip last week following accusations he had drunkenly groped two men. Downing Street officials eventually conceded that Johnson had known about other allegations against Pincher back in 2019, and many ministers recoiled at having to defend the PM yet again. As late as Wednesday night, Johnson – whose landslide 2019 win was the biggest Tory victory since the heyday of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s – had been defiantly clinging to power. However, he was forced to concede his time was up after another round of resignations on Thursday morning and warnings of a second no-confidence vote next week by Tory MPs.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa lost her appeal against a conviction for cyber libel, her news website Rappler said yesterday, in the latest blow for the veteran journalist. Ressa, 58, and her former colleague Rey Santos Jr face lengthy jail sentences, but the company said they will “avail of all legal remedies available to them”, including taking the case to the Supreme Court. The ruling comes less than two weeks after Philippine authorities ordered Rappler to shut down ahead of outgoing president Rodrigo Duterte’s last day in office. Yesterday Rappler described the decision to uphold the 2020 conviction as “unfortunate”, saying it “weakens the ability of journalists to hold power to account”. “What is ultimately at stake is our democracy whose strength rests on a media that is not threatened by the state nor intimidated by forces out to silence critical voices,” Rappler said. Ressa, who is currently in Manila, has long been a vocal critic of Duterte and the deadly drug war he launched in 2016, triggering what media advocates say is a grinding series of criminal charges, probes and online attacks against her and Rappler. She and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October for their efforts to “safeguard freedom of expression”. In a statement yesterday, Norwegian Nobel Committee chair Berit Reiss-Andersen said: “The criticism voiced through Rappler is well within the freedom of expression in a democratic society. I am gravely concerned that Maria Ressa is being prosecuted for exercising her rights of expression.” Ressa, who is also a US citizen, is fighting at least seven court cases, including the cyber libel case, for which she has been on bail and faces up to nearly seven years in prison. Rappler, which faces eight cases, had to fight for survival as Duterte’s government accused it of violating a constitutional ban on foreign ownership in securing funding, as well as tax evasion. The cyber libel law was introduced in 2012, the same year Rappler was founded. Its use against journalists was “troubling”, said Jonathan de Santos, chairman of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines. He called on Congress to descriminalise cyber libel, arguing that it was “no longer compatible with our constitution”. Just days before Duterte left office, the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (PSEC) ordered Rappler to shut down for violating “constitutional and statutory restrictions on foreign ownership in mass media”. The news organisation is accused of allowing foreigners to take control of its website through its parent company Rappler Holdings’ issuance of “depositary receipts”. Under the constitution, investment in media is reserved for Filipinos or Filipino-controlled entities. Rappler said the PSEC’s decision “effectively confirmed the shutdown” of the company and vowed to appeal, describing the proceedings as “highly irregular”. Ressa said the company would continue to operate as they followed the legal process, but expressed hope that the situation would improve under Duterte’s successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. However, the company’s future and its battle in the country’s highly politicised legal system under Marcos Jr’s presidency is uncertain. Marcos Jr, who took over from Duterte on June 30, has given few clues about his views on the website and the broader issue of freedom of speech. Activists fear he could worsen the situation for human rights and freedom of speech in the country.
The fatal shooting of former Japanese premier Shinzo Abe from close range at a political rally yesterday has raised questions about protection for high-profile figures in a country where political violence and gun crimes are extremely rare. Dignitaries in Japan often travel with modest security details focused mainly on direct physical threats rather than being protected by the heavily-armed personnel braced for firearms attacks seen in places like the United States. Abe, 67, was campaigning in the western city of Nara for Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) candidates ahead of an election tomorrow when he was shot, with Nippon TV saying the assailant was about 3m (10’) away. A 41-year-old was detained at the scene and police said the suspect had used a homemade gun. Police said other guns and explosives were found at the suspect’s home and that he had admitted to carrying out the attack. Officials from the Nara prefectoral police department told reporters that the request for security at the event was “sudden” and that the department would look into whether security was sufficient and take appropriate action. Nippon Television quoted Nara police as saying Abe was protected at yesterday’s rally by one armed specialised police officer and some other local officers. Nara police declined to say how many police officers were handling Abe’s security. When he was shot, Abe was standing at an intersection outside a train station, speaking to a crowd of hundreds as buses and vans passed behind his exposed back on the road where the assailant appeared. Several commentators said security around the former premier should have been stronger. “Anyone could have hit him from that distance,” Masazumi Nakajima, a former Japanese police detective, told Japan’s TBS television. “I think that security was a little too weak.” “The person needs to be covered from all directions,” Koichi Ito, a VIP security specialist, told national broadcaster NHK. “If this kind of thing isn’t carried out 100%, it’s no good.” Japanese officials, including former prime ministers, are protected by a special branch of the Tokyo police. The armed plainclothes officers known as SPs – or Security Police – go through a rigorous screening, including expertise in hand-to-hand combat. They typically stay close to the politician they are protecting to safeguard against direct physical threats. There were just 10 firearm-related incidents in Japan last year, only one of them fatal, according to the National Police Agency. Abe’s assassination was the first of a sitting or former Japanese premier since the 1930s during the days of Japan’s pre-war militarism. Former prime ministers Saito Makoto and Takahashi Korekiyo were assassinated on the same day in 1936, while then-Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai was assassinated in 1932. Paul Nadeau, who has been on campaign events with Abe in the past, said that stump speeches like yesterday’s are “almost intimate events”. “The public is close by, they’re usually filling a town square in front of the train station,” said Nadeau, who previously worked for an LDP official and is now an adjunct professor at Temple University of Japan in Tokyo. “You never got any feeling of insecurity or danger or anything like that.” Iwao Horii, an LDP member who was standing next to Abe when he was shot, said preparations for the event were not unusual with about 15 party staff tasked with crowd control and security handled by the local police. All major parties announced suspensions of election campaign activities after the shooting. Several recent campaign events attended by Abe, who was Japan’s longest serving prime minister and one of the country’s most influential political figures, had drawn large crowds. One ruling party source told Reuters on condition of anonymity that despite Abe’s high profile, the level of security he was provided had likely dropped since he left office in 2020. Japan has very tight gun control laws. The suspected gunman shot at Abe with a device that had a pistol grip and two pipes covered in black electrical tape, according to photos and video images of the incident. Grant Newsham, a retired US Marine officer and former diplomat at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, said he would expect more caution and somewhat tighter protection of senior politicians in Japan following the assassination. “Questions will be being asked about security. Clearly security would have been far tighter for, say, (Prime Minister Fumio) Kishida,” added Robert Ward, a London-based senior fellow for Japanese Security Studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “But proximity to voters is a feature of Japanese campaigning. I’ve been at campaign rallies and the public is close. Perhaps this will change. If so, it would be a shame.”
World leaders condemned Friday's assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, while paying tribute to him as a great leader. Here are some key comments: Britain British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the leadership role taken by the former premier, saying the UK stands with Japan "at this dark and sad time". "Incredibly sad news about Shinzo Abe. His global leadership through unchartered times will be remembered by many," Johnson tweeted. In a message of condolence sent to Japan's Emperor Naruhito, Queen Elizabeth II said she too was "deeply saddened" by the news of Abe's death, adding that she had "fond memories of meeting Mr Abe and his wife" when they visited the UK in 2016. Russia Russian President Vladimir Putin called the death an "irreplaceable loss". In a telegram to Abe's family, Putin called Abe an "outstanding statesman" who had done a lot to develop "good neighbourly ties between our countries". South Korea South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol termed the killing an "unacceptable act of crime". "I extend my consolation and condolences to his family and the Japanese people for having lost their longest-serving prime minister and a respected politician," Yoon said. France French President Emmanuel Macron said "Japan has lost a great prime minister". Abe had "dedicated his life to his country and worked for stability in the world", he said in a tweet. Germany German Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed shock and solidarity with Japan over the killing. "The deadly attack on Shinzo Abe has left me aghast and deeply sad," the German leader tweeted. "I extend deep sympathy to his family, my colleague Fumio Kishida and our Japanese friends." India Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a day of national mourning in honour of Abe. "I am shocked and saddened beyond words at the tragic demise of one of my dearest friends, Shinzo Abe," Modi wrote on Twitter. "We stand in solidarity with our Japanese brothers and sisters in this difficult moment." Ukraine Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky extended his condolences to Abe's family. "Horrible news of a brutal assassination of former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe. I am extending my deepest condolences to his family and the people of Japan at this difficult time. This heinous act of violence has no excuse," he tweeted. United States US President Joe Biden said he was "stunned, outraged, and deeply saddened" by the assassination. "This is a tragedy for Japan and for all who knew him," Biden said in a statement. "Even at the moment he was attacked, he was engaged in the work of democracy." Former president Donald Trump also weighed in, saying the detained assassin "will hopefully be dealt with swiftly and harshly". Secretary of State Antony Blinken mourned Abe as a visionary leader who boosted relations between the two allies. Meeting his Japanese and South Korean counterparts jointly at a G20 meeting in Bali, Blinken said Abe "brought the relationship between our countries, the United States and Japan, to new heights". European Union "The brutal and cowardly murder" of Abe "shocks the world", European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen tweeted. "I will never understand the brutal killing of this great man," said European Council President Charles Michel in a separate tweet. The Netherlands Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte termed the attack "cowardly", and said his thoughts were with Abe's loved ones and the Japanese people. "At today's cabinet meeting we paused to reflect on this dark day for Japanese democracy. I have fond memories of our friendship and the work we did together," he said. Italy Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said that his country was "shocked by the terrible attack that hits Japan and its free democratic debate." Turkey "I am deeply saddened by the loss of my dear friend Abe, the former prime minister of Japan, in an armed attack. I condemn those who carried out this heinous attack," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. China The Chinese embassy in Japan said it was "shocked" by the shooting. "During his tenure, former Prime Minister Abe made contributions to the improvement and development of China-Japan relations. We express our condolences on his passing and express sympathy and solicitude for his family," an embassy spokesperson said. Australia "Shocking news from Japan that former PM Shinzo Abe has been shot," Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese tweeted after the attack. "Our thoughts are with his family and the people of Japan at this time." Indonesia Indonesian President Joko Widodo extended condolences on Twitter. "We will always remember his contributions in strengthening RI-Japan cooperation," he wrote. "May the family of PM Abe and the Japanese people be given strength in this difficult time." United Nations UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was "deeply saddened by the horrific killing", adding that he would "always remember his collegiality and commitment to multilateralism". Brazil Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro expressed "extreme indignation" at the killing and declared three days of official mourning in solidarity with Japan. Bolsonaro described Abe as a "brilliant leader" and "great friend of Brazil" in a tweet that included a photo of the two men shaking hands at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in 2019. "Let his murder be punished rigorously. We are with Japan," the far-right leader tweeted. Brazil is home to the largest Japanese community outside of the archipelago, with about 1.9 million immigrants and descendants. Canada Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Abe's assassination "incredibly shocking". "The world has lost a great man of vision, and Canada has lost a close friend," he said, offering condolences to Abe's widow and the people of Japan.