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Shinzo Abe assassination | Biden phones PM Kishida as Japan mourns death of former leader

A day after the murder of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a steady stream of mourners visited the scene in Nara

July 09, 2022 09:05 am | Updated 06:45 pm IST - Washington

People pray next to flowers laid at the site where late former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot while campaigning for a parliamentary election, near Yamato-Saidaiji station in Nara, Japan

People pray next to flowers laid at the site where late former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot while campaigning for a parliamentary election, near Yamato-Saidaiji station in Nara, Japan | Photo Credit: Reuters

U. S. President Joe Biden had a telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan and discussed how Shinzo Abe’s legacy will live on as they continue the important task of defending peace and democracy, the White House has said.

During the conversation, Mr. Biden expressed his outrage, sadness and deep condolences after former Japanese leader Abe's assassination, it said.

Mr. Abe, 67, was shot from behind in Nara in western Japan while giving a campaign speech. Police have arrested a Nara resident in his 40s, who allegedly used a handmade gun to shoot Mr. Abe, a tragedy that has shocked Japan which has some of the strictest gun laws in the world.

“The President underscored that he and the American people stand with the Prime Minister and the people of Japan in their time of mourning,” said a readout of the call on Friday. “The President noted the importance of Prime Minister Abe’s enduring legacy with his vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific and the establishment of the QUAD meetings of Japan, the United States, Australia and India.”

Architect of Quad

Mr. Abe was one of the architects of the Quad, the U. S., India, Japan and Australia alliance aimed at countering China’s growing influence and military might. The four countries had in 2017 given shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the "Quad" or the Quadrilateral coalition to counter China's aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific region.

Leaders of the Quad expressed shock at the assassination, saying Mr. Abe played a “formative role” in the founding of the partnership and worked tirelessly to advance a shared vision for a free and open strategically-important Indo-Pacific region.

“We, the leaders of Australia, India, and the United States, are shocked at the tragic assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,” U. S. President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a statement on Friday released by the White House.

The leaders called Abe a “transformative leader” for Japan as well as for Japanese relations with each one of the three countries. “He also played a formative role in the founding of the Quad partnership, and worked tirelessly to advance a shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” they said.

Japan mourns

A steady stream of mourners on Saturday visited the scene of the bloody assassination in Nara.

“I’m just shocked that this kind of thing happened in Nara,” said Natsumi Niwa, a 50-year-old housewife, said after offering flowers with her 10-year-old son near the scene of the killing at a downtown train station.

Mr. Abe, a conservative and architect of the “Abenomics” policies aimed at reflating the Japanese economy, inspired the name of her son, Masakuni, with his rallying cry of Japan as a “beautiful nation”, Ms. Niwa said. “Kuni” means nation in Japanese.

Campaigning resumed on the final day of electioneering before polling for the upper house of parliament, which is expected to deliver victory to the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, an Abe protege.

Police are scrambling to establish the motive and method of Mr. Abe’s killer.

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