'Truly heartbreaking': World leaders react to the murder of former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe

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'Truly heartbreaking': World leaders react to the murder of former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe
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World leaders are reacting with shock and sadness to the news that Shinzo Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, was assassinated on Friday evening.

Abe was shot shortly after he began speaking at a campaign event in the city of Nara, near Kyoto, ahead of national elections. He went into cardiac arrest and later died in the hospital.

A 41-year-old man was arrested at the scene, accused of committing the killing.

"I am stunned, outraged, and deeply saddened by the news that my friend Abe Shinzo was shot and killed,"  US President Joe Biden said in a statement.

"He cared deeply about the Japanese people and dedicated his life to their service. Even at the moment he was attacked, he was engaged in the work of democracy."

Japan is one of America's oldest and closest allies, a bond that Washington sees as strategically essential to counter China's growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.

Barack Obama also paid tribute to Abe and his devotion to the US-Japan alliance.

"I will always remember the work we did to strengthen our alliance, the moving experience of traveling to Hiroshima and Pearl Harbor together, and the grace he and his wife Akie Abe showed to me and Michelle," wrote the former US president.

In Brussels, EU leaders mourned the sudden loss.

"A wonderful person, great democrat and champion of the multilateral world order has passed away," said Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission.

"I mourn with his family, his friends and all the people of Japan."

European Council President Charles Michel expressed his condolences on social media and added he "will never understand the brutal killing of this great man." European Parliament President Roberta Metsola and European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde too shared messages of grief and solidarity.

"Japan loses a great Prime Minister, who dedicated his life to his country and worked to bring balance to the world," said French President Emmanuel Macron.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called the attack on Abe "cowardly" and said his cabinet had taken a pause during Friday's meeting to reflect "on this dark day for Japanese democracy."

"I have fond memories of our friendship and the work we did together," wrote Rutte, one of Europe's longest-serving leaders.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he was "stunned" and "deeply saddened" by the news, a feeling similarly expressed by his counterparts from Italy, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Romania, Belgium, Luxembourg, Ireland, Malta, Cyprus, Portugal, Spain, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

"Abe-san was an outstanding leader," said Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, using the honorific "-san" suffix, which closely resembles the Western "sir" treatment.

From Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy characterised the assassination as "brutal" and a "heinous act of violence" with no excuse.

"His global leadership through unchartered times will be remembered by many," said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Johnson's predecessor, Theresa May, who worked closely with Abe while he was in office, said his murder was "truly heartbreaking" and that he was killed "in the most appalling circumstances."

"He was a statesman of the highest calibre. A dependable partner and trusted ally. A consummate host. But also the warmest and kindest of friends," May wrote on Twitter.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took to social media to condemn what he called a "heinous" attack on Abe's life, a term also used by NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

More heartfelt messages came from leaders of Asia and Oceania, many of whom got to know Abe personally throughout the years.

"He was a towering global statesman, an outstanding leader, and a remarkable administrator. He dedicated his life to make Japan and the world a better place," wrote Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Modi shared several messages with his 80 million Twitter followers praising Abe's legacy and recounting the time they spent together deepening Japan-India relations.

"He was witty and insightful as always. Little did I know that this would be our last meeting," Modi added.

The Indian PM then announced July 9 will be observed as a day of mourning in the country.

In a statement, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said that under Abe's leadership, Japan emerged as "one of Australia's closest and most like-minded partners in Asia."

Albanese extolled Abe as a champion of a "free and open" Indo-Pacific region and a "giant on the world stage."

South Korea President Yoon Suk-yeol said the murder was an "intolerable act of crime" and extended his condolences to Abe's family and the entire people of Japan.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said she was in "indescribable shock" and that her country will "never forget" the support and consideration Abe gave to the self-governing island.

"Prime Minister Abe was a leader ahead of his time," said Rahm Emanuel, the US Ambassador to Japan. "The clarity of his voice will be truly missed."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the assassination was "profoundly disturbing."

In a telegram message addressed to Abe's family, Russian President Vladimir Putin described the former Japanese PM as an "outstanding statesman" and said his loss was "irreparable."

From Israel, Prime Minister Yair Lapid hailed Abe as a "fierce and distinguished leader".

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