LONDON — The assassination of Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister of Japan, drew shocked reactions from world leaders and U.S. political officials who paid tribute to the ex-head of state.
Abe, who was Japan’s longest-serving leader, was shot from behind on Friday while speaking at a campaign event in the western city of Nara. The 67-year-old Abe went into cardiac arrest and was airlifted to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Police said a man was arrested at the scene and is believed to have carried out the attack.
Leaders including President Biden, outgoing British Prime Minster Boris Johnson and Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed their sadness over Friday’s news.
“I am stunned, outraged, and deeply saddened by the news that my friend Abe Shinzo, former Prime Minister of Japan, was shot and killed while campaigning,” Biden said in a statement. “This is a tragedy for Japan and for all who knew him.”
Biden detailed how the two worked “closely” together when he was vice president.
“He was a champion of the Alliance between our nations and the friendship between our people,” Biden said. “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.”
Speaking at a G-20 foreign ministers' meeting in Bali, Indonesia, Blinken called the assassination “profoundly disturbing” and said he shared his “very deep condolences” with his Japanese counterpart.
Former Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama also paid tribute to Abe.
“I will always remember the work we did to strengthen our alliance, the moving experience of traveling to Hiroshima and Pearl Harbor together, and the grace he and his wife Akie Abe showed to me and Michelle,” Obama said in a statement, adding that Abe “was devoted to both the country he served and the extraordinary alliance between the United States and Japan.”
Posting on his social network, Truth Social, Trump said the former leader was a “true friend of mine and, much more importantly, America.” He added: “This is a tremendous blow to the wonderful people of Japan, who loved and admired him so much.”
Johnson, who resigned as British prime minister on Thursday, shared his condolences on Twitter. “His global leadership through unchartered times will be remembered by many,” he wrote. “My thoughts are with his family, friends, and the Japanese people. The UK stands with you at this dark and sad time.”
Nadhim Zahawi, who was appointed as the U.K.’s chancellor of the Exchequer two days ago following mass Cabinet resignations, shared his sympathies with Japan, saying that Abe “has lost his life in pursuit of” making the world a better place. It followed a now-deleted tweet in which he had expressed his shock at Abe’s death — before any update had been given on the ex-leader’s condition.
“A wonderful person, great democrat and champion of the multilateral world order has passed away,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, wrote on Twitter.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the assassination “brutal” and a “heinous act of violence.” Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had a “fond memory” of Abe, who “did a lot for good neighborly relations,” state-run media RT reported. Putin’s Foreign Ministry had earlier called the attack a “terrorist act” and called for the shooter to be held accountable.
Japan is a country with some of the world’s strictest laws on gun ownership. For a country with more than 127 million people, it rarely totals more than 10 gun deaths per year. “Ever since guns entered the country, Japan has always had strict gun laws,” Iain Overton, the executive director of Action on Armed Violence, a British advocacy group, told the BBC in 2017. “They are the first nation to impose gun laws in the whole world, and I think it laid down a bedrock saying that guns really don’t play a part in civilian society."