(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) – Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has died after being shot during a campaign speech Friday in Nara. He was 67.
Abe was pronounced dead by doctors at the Nara Medical University hospital in central Japan at 5:03 p.m. local time. He was admitted into hospital in a state of cardiac arrest and medical staff were unable to stop the excessive bleeding, doctors said during a press conference on Friday.
Abe served two separate terms as Japanese leader for the right-leaning LDP — the first from 2006 to 2007, then again from 2012 until 2020. His second stint was the longest consecutive term for a Japanese head of government.
Abe will be remembered for boosting defense spending and pushing through the most dramatic shift in Japanese military policy in 70 years. In 2015, his government passed a reinterpretation of Japan’s postwar, pacifist constitution, allowing Japanese troops to engage in overseas combat — with conditions — for the first time since World War II.
Abe argued the change was needed to respond to a more challenging security environment, a nod to a more assertive China and frequent missile tests in North Korea.
During his term, Abe sought to improve relations with Beijing and held a historic phone call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2018. At the same time, he tried to counter Chinese expansion in the region by uniting Pacific allies.
After leaving office, Abe remained head of the largest faction of the ruling LDP and remained influential within the party. He has continued to campaign for a stronger security policy and last year angered China by calling for a greater commitment from allies to defend democracy in Taiwan. In response, Beijing summoned Japan’s ambassador and accused Abe of openly challenging China’s sovereignty.