World leaders horrified by Abe killing, Japanese leader remembered as a 'giant on the world stage'

The assassination of Japan's former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in one of the world's safest countries stunned leaders and drew condemnation from around the globe in the strongest terms.

'Canada has lost a close friend,' Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks with then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he inspects an honour guard during a visit on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 28, 2019. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The assassination of Japan's former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in one of the world's safest countries stunned leaders and drew condemnation from around the globe in the strongest terms.

Abe, 67, was shot from behind in Nara in western Japan while giving a campaign speech. He was airlifted to a hospital but was not breathing and his heart had stopped. He was pronounced dead later at the hospital.

Abe was Japan's longest-serving leader, having served four terms in office before stepping down in 2020 for health reasons.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who hastily returned to Tokyo from campaign events around the country, called the shooting "dastardly and barbaric."

WATCH l Former ambassador says Abe was a natural leader, knowledgeable about Canada:

The late Shinzo Abe's legacy in Canada

1 year ago
Duration 1:05
Featured VideoFormer Ambassador of Canada to Japan Ian Burney says he's 'in a state of shock' over the killing of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Burney says Abe was very knowledgeable about Canada and instrumental in negotiating a key free trade agreement.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Abe a "dedicated, visionary leader" and said he was "incredibly shocked and deeply saddened" to learn of the assassination.

"Canada condemns in the strongest terms this egregious attack and stands with the people of Japan in this difficult time," he said in a statement.

WATCH | Trudeau reacts to death of Japan's former prime minister Shinzo Abe

Trudeau reacts to death of Japan's former prime minister Shinzo Abe

1 year ago
Duration 2:37
Featured VideoPrime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his condolences to the former Japanese prime minister's family and loved ones following news of his assassination.

"I knew Shinzo for many years. He was a thoughtful, compassionate, strong leader who understood the importance of service, understood the importance of building a better world," Trudeau said as he spoke in Ottawa.

On Twitter, Trudeau said: "Canada has lost a close friend. My thoughts are with his wife, Akie, and the people of Japan as they mourn this loss."

Abe and his wife Akie are greeted by then-prime minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen in Ottawa on Sept. 24, 2013. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Former prime minister Stephen Harper also expressed his condolences to Abe's wife and family.

"As Japan's longest-serving PM, he championed democracy, freedom, and a strong Japan among the world's democracies. His legacy will long endure," Harper tweeted.

Statement from Canada's Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly:

American presidents grieve loss of Abe

U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement that the "United States stands with Japan in this moment of grief."

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

Former U.S. presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump also expressed their condolences and remembered Abe fondly.

"I will always remember the work we did to strengthen our alliance, the moving experience of traveling to Hiroshima and Pearl Harbor together," said Obama. Japanese leaders had visited Pearl Harbor before, but Abe was the first to go to the memorial constructed on the hallowed waters above the sunken USS Arizona.

Shinzo Abe and Barack Obama greet American war veterans at Kilo Pier overlooking the USS Arizona Memorial on Dec. 27, 2016 at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii. Abe and Obama made a joint pilgrimage to the site of the Pearl Harbor attack to celebrate 'the power of reconciliation' between the nations. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

Before Abe's death was confirmed, Trump described the shooting as "absolutely devastating news."

"This is a tremendous blow to the wonderful people of Japan, who loved and admired him so much," said Trump. "We are all praying for Shinzo and his beautiful family."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the shooting "despicable."

"His global leadership through unchartered times will be remembered by many. My thoughts are with his family, friends and the Japanese people. The UK stands with you at this dark and sad time," Johnson tweeted.

Reaction from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres:

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that he was "deeply shocked by the odious attack" on Abe. He paid tribute to Abe as "a great prime minister" and said "France stands at the side of the Japanese people."

Many gave their condolences and expressed solidarity with Japan, and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Saturday as a one-day national mourning as a mark of the deepest respect.

"Mr. Abe made an immense contribution to elevating India-Japan relations to the level of a special strategic and global partnership. Today, whole India mourns with Japan and we stand in solidarity with our Japanese brothers and sisters in this difficult moment," Modi said.

Shinzo Abe reacts as Donald Trump and France's President Emmanuel Macron speak at the G20 summit hosted by Japan, in Osaka on June 28, 2019. (Dominique Jacovides/AFP/Getty Images)

Iran condemned the shooting as "an act of terrorism."

"As a country that has been a victim of terrorism and has lost great leaders to terrorists, we are following the news closely and with concern," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, centre, with flag, is shown on Sept. 7, 2013 as it was announced that Tokyo would host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, a bid Abe championed. (Kyodo News/The Associated Press)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier expressed her shock about the shooting. She said Abe was one of the first leaders she met after taking office and described him as deeply committed to his role, generous and kind.

"I recall him asking after the recent loss of our pet when I met him, a small gesture but one that speaks to the kind of person he is," Ardern said. "Events like this shake us all to the core."

'Giant on the world stage'

Police have arrested a suspected gunman at the scene. Under Japanese law, possession of firearms, as well as certain kinds of knives and other weapons, such as bowguns, is illegal without a special licence. Importing them is also illegal.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Abe was one of Australia's closest friends and a "giant on the world stage," adding that "his legacy was one of global impact, and a profound and positive one for Australia. He will be greatly missed."

Reaction from Israel's longtime former leader Benjamin Netanyahu:

Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Italy was "distraught over the terrible attack against Japan and its free, democratic debate," while across the Mediterranean Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said, "Spain stands together with the people of Japan in these difficult times."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian declined to comment. China is shocked by the shooting, is ready to extend condolences to his family and hopes he will be out of danger and recover soon, a foreign ministry spokesperson told a daily briefing in Beijing on Friday.

Credited for safe Tokyo Games

Abe helped get behind the successful Tokyo bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach on Friday credited Abe with enabling the Olympics to take place after a postponement of a year due to the pandemic.

While there were concerns due to a rise in cases in Japan in mid-2021, the tightly contained Summer Games were carried off with relatively few infections due to stringent controls.

"Only his vision, determination and dependability allowed us to take the unprecedented decision to postpone the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020," said Bach in a statement. "Without Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, these Olympic Games would never have happened, and the Olympic dream of athletes from all around the world would not have come true."

With files from CBC News and Reuters