Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot in the chest

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Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has died after being shot twice while delivering a speech on Friday in the country’s first assassination of a political leader in 90 years.

According to several media reports, he was bleeding and hospitalized with a cardiac arrest.

At the time, two sounds like gunshots were heard and the suspect was arrested at the scene, broadcaster NHK said.

He is said to have been shot in the back and neck, broadcaster TBS said. Yomiuri Shimbun reported that 67-year-old Abe appeared to have been shot from behind.

Reuters said several others were injured.

His brother, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, had said Abe was receiving blood transfusions. NHK showed footage of Abe’s wife Akie riding the train to the hospital where he was being treated.

Airo Hino, a political science professor at Waseda University, said such a shooting was unprecedented in Japan. “There’s never been anything like it,” he says.

The suspect, according to Yomiuri, is 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, who lives in Nara. He was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after shooting Abe at close range. Those charges are expected to be increased to murder.

Video and stills after the shooting showed what appeared to be a homemade double-barreled weapon.

Japan’s Nikkei stock market index slashed some of its early gains after the shooting. It was up 0.5% in early afternoon trading after rising as much as 1.4% at the start of the session. The broader Topix was up nearly 0.6%.

Recent PM

Abe was best known for his Signature “Abenomics” Policy characterized by bold monetary easing and fiscal spending. He also increased defense spending after years of decline and expanded the military’s ability to project power abroad.

In a historic turning point in 2014, his administration reinterpreted the post-war pacifist constitution to allow troops to fight abroad for the first time since World War II.

The following year, legislation ended a ban on exercising the right to collective self-defense or to defend an attacked friendly country.

However, Abe did not achieve his long-cherished goal of revising the US-drafted constitution by writing the Self-Defense Forces, as Japan’s military is called, in the pacifist Article 9.

He was instrumental in helping Tokyo win the 2020 Olympic Games and harbored a desire to referee the Games, which were postponed to 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Abe first took office in 2006 as Japan’s youngest prime minister since World War II. After a year plagued by political scandals, voter outrage over lost pension records and an electoral defeat for his ruling party, Abe quit citing ill health.

In 2012 he became prime minister again. In 2020 he resigned again due to deteriorating health. He suffered from ulcerative colitis, a painful digestive disorder.

Abe comes from a wealthy political family that included a Secretary of State father and a grandfather who served as Prime Minister.

Abe, who was first elected to parliament in 1993 after the death of his father, achieved national fame by taking a tough stance on unpredictable neighbor North Korea in a feud over Japanese citizens kidnapped by Pyongyang decades ago.

Though Abe also sought to mend ties with China and South Korea, where bitter memories of war run deep, he angered both neighbors in 2013 by visiting Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, viewed by Beijing and Seoul as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.

In later years, Abe refrained from personal visits, instead sending ritual offerings.

Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, said the shooting was a “very, very sad moment”. Former US President Donald Trump, with whom Abe was closely associated, said his truth social Followers said the shooting was “a tremendous blow to the wonderful people of Japan.”

Yen rises in safe-haven moves

The yen rose almost 0.5% against the US dollar on Friday in what appeared to be safe buying.

Abe spoke on behalf of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which is hoping for a strong showing in Sunday’s House of Lords election.

A solid victory would give Prime Minister Fumio Kishida a firmer grip on the party and allow him to step out of Abe’s shadow.

If he does as well as the polls predict, Kishida will increase his chances of leading the LDP in the next elections, which are due in late 2025.

A consolidation of power would give Kishida an opportunity to increase defense spending and perhaps revise the pacifist constitution, which even the hawkish Abe, who resigned in 2020, failed to do.

Kishida said it was premature to talk about the campaign after the Abe shooting, but the LDP had called its parliamentarians to Tokyo.

In 2007, the mayor of Nagasaki was shot dead by a yakuza gangster. In 1994, former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa was assassinated.

Inejiro Asanuma, then leader of the Japan Socialist Party, was assassinated by a right-wing youth while delivering a speech in 1960. In 1932, then Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai was assassinated by rebellious naval officers after just a year in office.

  • Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell

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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes, and South China Morning Post.

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