TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was suffering from heart failure after he was apparently shot during a campaign speech Friday in western Japan, NHK public television said Friday.
The station broadcast footage showing Abe collapsed in the street, with several security guards running towards him. Abe was holding his chest when he collapsed, his shirt stained with blood. NHK says Abe was rushed to a hospital.
Abe was in Nara campaigning ahead of Sunday’s election for the upper house of parliament and was giving a speech when people heard a gunshot.
Police arrested a male suspect at the scene on suspicion of attempted murder, NHK said.
The attack came as a shock in a country that is one of the safest in the world and has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world.
The term heart failure means that the heart cannot pump enough blood and deliver needed oxygen to the rest of the body. In Japan, officials sometimes use the term to describe situations where the victims are no longer alive but before a formal declaration of death has been made.
It was not immediately clear how serious Abe’s injuries were or if he was still showing vital signs.
Abe, 67, resigned as prime minister in 2020 because he said a chronic health problem had resurfaced. Abe has had ulcerative colitis since he was a teenager and has said the condition was controlled with treatment.
He told reporters at the time that it was “heartbreaking” to leave so many of his goals unfinished. He spoke of his failure to solve the problem of Japanese kidnapped years ago by North Korea, a territorial dispute with Russia, and a revision of Japan’s renouncing war constitution.
That last goal was a big reason why he was such a divisive figure.
His ultra-nationalism angered 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 US-drafted anti-war constitution due to poor public support.
Abe’s supporters said his legacy was a stronger relationship between the United States and Japan that was aimed at bolstering Japan’s defense capabilities. But Abe also made enemies by forcing defense targets on himself and other contentious issues in parliament, despite strong public opposition.
Abe is a blue-blooded politician 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 a larger role in international affairs.
The US ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, expressed sadness and shock at the shooting. “Abe-san has been an outstanding leader of Japan and a staunch ally of the US. The US government and the American people are praying for the well-being of Abe-san, his family, and the people. from Japan,” he said on Twitter.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION