This story has been updated to reflect that, according to local Japanese media outlet NHK, Shinzo Abe passed away.
In 2020, then-Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe fought to bring casinos and integrated resorts (IR) to the country. A gunman assassinated him as he was making a campaign speech in the city of Nara.
Former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe waves to staff members as he says goodbye at his official residence in Tokyo, Japan in September 2020 after leaving officer. He is in critical condition following an assassination attempt in Nara. (Image: Reuters/Issei Kato)
An unidentified person shot the high-profile political figure at an event in the city of Nara, the capital city of the Nara prefecture. He was seriously injured; two bullets reportedly hitting him in the neck and back, according to media. The shots allegedly came from a homemade shotgun, according to CNN.
Abe was in Nara, showing support for fellow members of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). This Sunday, Japan will hold its elections for the Upper House, and the 67-year-old Abe was campaigning for several legislators. Police have already arrested the alleged perpetrator.
Initially, there was no concrete information from the government about Abe’s condition after the attack. In the media, however, partly contradictory reports appeared. Public broadcaster NHK initially stated that Abe was unconscious after the attack. He had bled from the neck and, therefore, have shown no more vital functions, the outlet asserted.
Japanese news agency Kyodo also reported that Abe received a bullet impact in the neck and was unconscious. Later, NHK updated its story after Reuters reported that Abe was conscious and responsive.
At the same time, Makoto Morimoto, the spokesman for Nara’s local fire department, said Abe stopped breathing after the attack. He acknowledged that Abe apparently suffered cardiac arrest. Following attempts to save him at the hospital, Abe succumbed to the injuries.
A representative of the Communist Party strongly condemned the attack, stating, “Violence against political activities is absolutely unacceptable.” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed “deep concern” about Abe’s health. Blinken, who is currently attending the G20 summit in Bali, spoke of a “very sad moment” for the country and the world.
Israel’s ambassador to Japan, Gilad Cohen, also expressed sympathy via a tweet. He praised Abe’s efforts as the “architect of modern relations between Israel & Japan.”
Abe Turns Japan Around
Abe ruled Japan for one year in 2006 and from December 2012 to September 2020, making him the country’s longest-serving Prime Minister. Under his leadership, the country had moved significantly to the right.
Abe is one of the staunchest advocates of a revision of the post-war pacifist constitution. In addition, he saw the need for major economic reforms, which included an increase in tourism. This led to the potential, although somewhat controversial, approval of IRs in Nagasaki and Osaka.
Abe’s resignation in August 2020 came as a surprise to most. He stated at the time that health issues forced him to step down. That paved the way for current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to take over in 2021.
It’s not only rare, but it’s really culturally unfathomable. The Japanese people can’t imagine having a gun culture like we have in the United States. This is a speechless moment. I really feel at a loss for words. I pray for the best for the former prime minister,” said International Security Industrial Council executive Nancy Snow.
Shootings are a daily occurrence in the US and other countries, but not in Japan. In 2018, according to CNN, there were only nine deaths from firearms. That same year, in the US, there were 39,740. In addition, Japan prohibits handguns – only shotguns and air rifles can be purchased legally.
The last political assassination in Japan occurred in 1960. Then, the Japanese Socialist Party leader at the time, Inejiro Asanuma, was stabbed to death.
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