Thu. Mar 30th, 2023

Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot during a campaign speech Friday in western Japan and was airlifted to a hospital, but he was not breathing and his heart had stopped, officials said.

Local fire department official Makoto Morimoto said Abe was in cardio and pulmonary arrest, or CPA, after being shot, meaning he was not breathing and his heart stopped while he was being airlifted to a prefectural hospital.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters that police arrested an alleged male attacker at the scene. “A barbaric act like this is absolutely unforgivable, no matter what the reasons are, and we condemn it strongly,” Matsuno said.

NHK public broadcaster aired footage showing Abe collapsed on the street, with several security guards running toward him. He was reportedly shot a few minutes after he started talking outside of a train station in western Nara. In video posted to social media apparently showing the attack, at least two apparent gunshots were heard as a man who appeared to be Abe was speaking, and a white plume of smoke could be seen behind the former prime minister.

In other footage, campaign officials were surrounding Abe in an apparent attempt to treat the popular former leader, who is still influential in the governing Liberal Democratic Party, and heads its largest faction Seiwakai. Elections for Japan’s upper house, the less powerful chamber of its parliament, are Sunday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who belongs to the same political party as Abe, is on his way to Tokyo on a helicopter from his own campaign destination of Yamagata, in northern Japan. Matsuno said all Cabinet ministers are to return to Tokyo from their campaign trips.  

The attack was a shock in a country that’s one of the world’s safest and with some of the strictest gun control laws anywhere.

Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe lies on the ground after apparent shooting during an election campaign in Nara, Japan
Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe lies on the ground after apparent shooting during an election campaign for the July 10, 2022 Upper House election, in Nara, western Japan July 8, 2022.

Kyodo via Reuters

The term heart failure means the heart cannot sufficiently pump blood and supply necessary oxygen to the rest of the body. In Japan, officials sometimes use the term to describe situations where victims are no longer alive but before a formal declaration of death has been made.

The full extent of Abe’s injuries were not immediately clear.

U.S. ambassador to Japan Rahm Emmanuel said on Twitter, “We are all saddened and shocked by the shooting of former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. Abe-san has been an outstanding leader of Japan and unwavering ally of the U.S. The U.S. Government and American people are praying for the well-being of Abe-san, his family, & people of Japan.”

The 67-year-old Abe was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister. He resigned in September 2020 due to health problems.  

“I have decided to step down from the post of the prime minister,” Abe said at the time, adding that he was suffering from a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis that brought an end to his first term in 2007.    

He told reporters at the time that it was “gut wrenching” to leave many of his goals unfinished. He spoke of his failure to resolve the issue of Japanese abducted years ago by North Korea, a territorial dispute with Russia and a revision of Japan’s war-renouncing constitution.

That last goal was a big reason he was such a divisive figure.

His ultra-nationalism riled the Koreas and China, and his push to normalize Japan’s defense posture angered many Japanese. Abe failed to achieve his cherished goal of formally rewriting the U.S.-drafted pacifist constitution because of poor public support.

Supporters of Abe said that his legacy was a stronger U.S.-Japan relationship that was meant to bolster Japan’s defense capability. But Abe made enemies too by forcing his defense goals and other contentious issues through parliament, despite strong public opposition.

Abe is a political blue blood who was groomed to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. His political rhetoric often focused on making Japan a “normal” and “beautiful” nation with a stronger military and bigger role in international affairs.

This is a developing story. It will be updated as more information becomes available.

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