Japan holds state funeral for Shinzo Abe; Kamala Harris among mourners

TOKYO — Vice President Harris joined world leaders in Tokyo on Tuesday to commemorate the life of Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, who was assassinated in July.

The state funeral is the first in Japan in 55 years and only the second in the post-war period – a measure of the impact Abe, a staunch US ally, has had over two terms that have lasted nearly a decade until his resignation in 2020.

But the event comes amid anger in Japan that taxpayers will foot the $11.5million bill to honor a leader who was popular abroad but often polarizes at home. Adding to the fury, a scandal has engulfed the ruling Liberal Democrat Party since its ties to a religious group came to the fore in the weeks after the former Tory leader was killed.

As the world comes together to honor Abe, Japan grapples with the influence of the church

The suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, told police he wanted to carry out the assassination because his life and family had been ruined following his mother’s large donations to the Unification Church, with which Abe apparently had close ties. The church confirmed that Yamagami’s mother was a member.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside one of Tokyo’s busiest subway stations in Shinjuku on Monday night to protest the funeral. Demonstrations are expected outside the Diet, Japan’s national assembly, during the service, which will begin at 2 p.m. local time at the capital’s Nippon Budokan Hall.

Japanese authorities have tightened security measures for the occasion, especially in light of acknowledged failings that allowed the shooter to approach Abe and open fire with a homemade weapon during a campaign event. .

About 4,300 guests, including about 700 foreigners, were expected to attend Tuesday’s closed-door ceremony, according Nikkei Asia. Members of the public offered flowers in a park near the Nippon Budokan.

Prior to the funeral, Harris held bilateral meetings with South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. His advisers had said the talks would cover regional economic and security issues, including China’s actions in the Taiwan Strait and cooperation against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Japanese police chiefs resign over security breaches in Abe assassination

Harris will travel to South Korea later this week, where she plans to visit the demilitarized zone, Han announced at the start of her meeting with the US vice president on Tuesday. In a statement, the White House said Harris would visit sites in the DMZ, which separates the two Koreas, meet with military personnel and receive an operational briefing from US commanders.

“The vice president will reflect on the shared sacrifice of tens of thousands of U.S. and Korean soldiers who fought and died together, and will reaffirm that the U.S. commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea is ironclad,” the statement said. White House, using an abbreviation for the Republic of Korea, the official name of South Korea.

On Monday, after arriving in Tokyo, Harris met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, offered his condolences on Abe’s death and stressed the U.S.-Japan alliance and U.S. support for Abe’s vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific”.

With the U.S. midterm elections just weeks away, President Biden and Harris intended to limit travel in the United States, touting victories under their administration and campaigning and fundraising for Democrats. But the White House changed its plans after the deaths of Abe in July and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on September 8.

“As you said, the alliance between Japan and the United States is the cornerstone of what we believe is integral to peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region,” Harris told Kishida on Monday. “And that’s something we’ve prioritized because we also believe it’s in the best interests of the American people in terms of security and prosperity – and we believe the same for the Japanese people.”

In addition to events around Abe’s funeral, Harris plans to visit Zojoji Temple, where thousands of Japanese flocked to pay their respects immediately after the former leader’s murder.

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