Assassinated Japanese leader Shinzo Abe was close friend to Canada, Trudeau says

By The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the assassination of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe is “shocking,” and that Canada has “lost a close friend” with his death.

“I knew Shinzo for many years. He was a thoughtful, compassionate, strong leader who understood the importance of service, understood the importance of building a better world, better opportunities for his citizens by stepping up and getting involved in issues around the world that really, really matter,” Trudeau said Friday, adding the former Japanese prime minister was a “great friend and a partner to Canada.”

“He was a man of immense talent and, not just his family, not just the entire country of Japan, but the entire world feels his loss, confounded by the fact that to see a senseless act of violence while he was busy doing what he loved: in serving his community, serving his country, stepping up in a political campaign is horrifically disturbing.”

Abe was assassinated Friday on a street in western Japan by a gunman who opened fire on him from behind as Abe delivered a campaign speech — an attack that stunned the country that has some of the strictest gun control laws anywhere.

The 67-year-old Abe, who was Japan’s longest-serving leader when he resigned in 2020, collapsed bleeding and was airlifted to a nearby hospital in Nara, although he was not breathing and his heart had stopped. He was pronounced dead after receiving massive blood transfusions, officials said.

“It is important that all of us recommit ourselves to the values of principles of democracy which hold that, yes, there will be incredible diversity of perspectives, of opinions, of views on how we need to go forwrad. But in a democracy, that is settled not just at the ballot box, but in between … through conversation, through dialogue, through speaking our truths, sharing our concerns, but also through listening to each other. We must all join together in condemning and pushing back against any threats of violence, any threats of intimidation, and division that undermine the public space that we occupy in a democracy in which we all feel safe to contribute, to share, and to serve,” Trudeau added.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, attending the G20 foreign ministers meeting in Indonesia, said she expressed Canada’s condolences to Japanese foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi.

“We are saddened and horrified by the recent news coming from Japan,” she said.

Biden, other world leaders issue statement after Abe’s shocking murder

In a statement released by the White House, U.S. President Joe Biden said he was “stunned, outraged and deeply saddened by the news that my friend Abe Shinzo, former prime minister of Japan, was shot and killed while campaigning.”

“Above all, [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. 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. The United States stands with Japan in this moment of grief. I send my deepest condolences to his family.”

President Joe Biden arrives to speak about the Russian invasion of Ukraine in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Nara Medical University emergency department chief Hidetada Fukushima said Abe suffered major damage to his heart, along with two neck wounds that damaged an artery. He never regained his vital signs, Fukushima said.

Prefectural police in Nara arrested the suspected gunman at the scene of the attack and identified him as Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, a former member of Japan’s navy. Broadcaster NHK reported that he said he wanted to kill Abe because he had complaints about him unrelated to politics.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his Cabinet ministers returned to Tokyo from campaign events around the country after the shooting, which he called “dastardly and barbaric.” He pledged that the election, which chooses members for Japan’s less-powerful upper house of parliament, would go on as planned.

“I use the harshest words to condemn (the act),” Kishida said, struggling to control his emotions. He said the government planned to review the security situation, but added that Abe had the highest protection.

Even though he was out of office, Abe was still highly influential in the governing Liberal Democratic Party and headed its largest faction, Seiwakai.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was “deeply shocked.”

“He was one of the first leaders I formally met when I became Prime Minister. He was deeply committed to his role, and also generous and kind. I recall him asking after the recent loss of our pet when I met him, a small gesture but one that speaks to the kind of person he is,” Ardern said. “My thoughts are with his wife and the people of Japan. Events like this shake us all to the core.”

Asian leaders were also stunned.

“Deeply distressed by the attack on my dear friend Abe Shinzo. Our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family, and the people of Japan,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong slammed it as a “senseless act of violence.”

“Mr. Abe is a good friend of Singapore. I had just hosted him for lunch in May, on my visit to Tokyo. My thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Abe and his family,” Lee said on Facebook.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo said he learned the news with great shock and dismay. “I extend my deep sympathy and pray for his early recovery,” he said.

-With files from Hana Mae Nassar

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