Japanese PM blames police for death of former leader Shinzo Abe

TOKYO– Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday blamed insufficient police protection for the death of former leader Shinzo Abe, who was shot dead last week while delivering a campaign speech outdoors.

Abe, one of Japan’s most influential politicians, was assassinated last Friday in Nara, western Japan, shocking a nation known for its low crime rate and strict gun control. Photos and videos of the shooting show the shooter was able to approach Abe from behind, while security guards were focused forward.

“I think there were issues with the security measures,” Kishida said.

Officials from the National Public Security Commission and the National Police Agency are investigating what happened and will compile measures in response, Kishida said. A team of national police officials arrived at the Nara Prefectural Police Headquarters on Thursday for the investigation.

“I urge them to do a thorough inspection and fix what needs fixing, while studying examples in other countries,” he said.

Kishida also announced plans to hold a state funeral for Abe later this year, noting his contributions to the country and to strengthening Japan’s security alliance with the United States. Abe’s nationalist views drove the ruling party’s conservative policies.

“By holding a state funeral in memory of former Prime Minister Abe, Japan will show its determination not to give in to violence and firmly uphold democracy,” Kishida said. “Japan will also show the world its determination to maintain its vigor and pave the way for the future.”

A small funeral ceremony was held Tuesday at a temple in Tokyo. A state ceremony would be only the second for a prime minister since World War II, following that of Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida in 1967.

The use of taxpayers’ money for a state funeral for the division leader has drawn mixed reactions from opposition leaders. People’s Democratic Party leader Yuichiro Tamaki said many condolences had been received from overseas and the plan was understandable, but Ichiro Matsui, leader of Japan’s Innovation Party, said it would require too much public money.

Abe was giving a speech in support of a candidate from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in last Sunday’s general election when he was shot dead. The party and its junior coalition partner, Komeito, won a landslide victory in the polls, helped in part by sympathy votes for Abe. But his absence could trigger a power struggle in the wing of the party he led, shaking the stability of the party.

A suspect was arrested immediately after the shooting and is being held for questioning for up to three weeks until prosecutors decide whether to bring murder charges.

The suspect allegedly told police he abandoned a plan to shoot Abe a day earlier during a speech in another town due to a requirement that bags be checked upon entry.

According to police and media reports, he told investigators he killed Abe due to rumors of links between the former prime minister and a religious group the suspect hated. The suspect, 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, is said to have been upset because his mother made large donations to the Unification Church, which bankrupted the family.

The assassination shed light on the ties between the Liberal Democratic Party and the Unification Church, known for its conservative and anti-Communist beliefs and mass marriages.

The South Korea-based church’s Japanese branch confirmed on Monday that Yamagami’s mother was a member and Abe was not. Abe appeared in video messages to church-affiliated groups.

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