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Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is assassinated at a campaign rally

Posted: Friday, July 8, 2022. 9:35 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Japan, and the wider international community, has been shocked by the assassination of its former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; shot and killed on Friday local time at a campaign rally according to National Public Radio (NPR).

The suspected gunman, who used a homemade weapon, was immediately tackled and arrested at the scene while Abe was rushed to hospital. He died several hours later from blood loss.

Accused Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, fired two shots at Abe as he was making a political speech in the city of Nara. The first shot missed, but the second hit Abe’s chest and neck. Yamagami was unemployed and a former member of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force for three years, police say, and attacked Abe because he believed he was associated with a group Yamagami hated. Multiple handmade guns were later found at Yamagami’s home.

Japan is considered one of the world’s safest nations and has some of the strictest gun control laws anywhere.

“It is barbaric and malicious and it cannot be tolerated,” current Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told the media.

Abe, 67, served as prime minister in 2006 and 2007, and again from 2012 to 2020 when he suddenly resigned citing health issues. Despite leaving office, he remained influential within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and continued to be a force on Japan’s political landscape. Contemporaries in Asia from India to Russia to Australia hailed him as an outstanding leader and statesman, echoed by U.S. President Joe Biden, who called him a friend.

Abe presided over a time of increased prosperity economically and renewed military and diplomatic presence, acting as a counterweight to mainland China and a peacemaker when the Donald Trump administration roiled affairs in the region with an isolationist strategy. But he was unable to revise Japan’s pacifist post-World War II constitution to strengthen government power and restore what he felt were Japanese values and traditions to its governance. He was also felt to be too slow in his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic for some Japanese.

However, he was also a significant supporter of Taiwan, calling on the United States to drop its long-standing practice of “strategic ambiguity” and give Taiwan assurances that it could count on American help in the event of an attack by China.

He also angered China by saying “a Taiwan contingency is a Japan contingency,” and noting that it would be impossible for Japan not to be sucked into a conflict over the self-governed island that Beijing considers its own.

The Caribbean Community has issued a statement of condolence, noting, “Abe is well remembered in our Community as in 2014 he became the first Prime Minister of Japan to visit the Region and meet with our Heads of Government taking to a new level the political engagement between CARICOM and Japan. It was during that visit the Prime Minister signalled Japan’s support in recognizing the vulnerability of Small Island and low-lying coastal Developing States (SIDS) and expressed Japan’s willingness to take into consideration issues other than GDP per capita as criteria for determining the provision of official development assistance. It was Prime Minister Abe who, during the Summit in Port of Spain, reset CARICOM-Japan relations by outlining his country’s three-pillar Policy towards the Community. These are cooperation towards sustainable development including overcoming vulnerabilities particular to small island states; deepening and expanding bonds founded on exchanges and friendship; and cooperation in addressing challenges in the international community. CARICOM is highly appreciative of Mr Abe’s significant contribution to enhancing relations between the Region and Japan.”

 

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