Japan’s longest-serving former prime minister and prominent anti-communist Shinzo Abe remained active on the political and foreign policy scene since resigning in 2020. Before his assassination on Friday, he had continued to express support for Taiwan’s defense against a potential Chinese invasion, despite warnings from China that he could “face a bloodbath.”
Despite stepping down from office, Abe continued to actively support many of the same political and foreign policy causes that China opposed during his tenure, including support for Taiwan. In December 2021, Abe had said, “A Taiwan emergency is a Japanese emergency, and therefore an emergency for the Japan-U.S. alliance.” The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin responded at the time by saying “In total disregard of the basic norms governing international relations and the principles of the four political documents between China and Japan, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe blatantly babbled utter nonsense and wantonly leveled criticism on the Taiwan question.”
“Anyone who dares to return to the old path of militarism and defy the limits of the Chinese people will face a bloodbath,” the Chinese official added.
In November 2021, Abe announced plans to visit Taiwan, which were described by media as an attempt to constrain his successor Prime Minister Fumio Kishida from increasing Japanese relations with China and to instead maintain close ties with Taiwan.
Abe was killed on Friday, just two days before the elections for Japan’s House of Councilors, which is the upper house of the Japanese legislature. Abe was shot and killed while delivering a campaign speech in the city of Nara.
The shooting suspect was arrested at the scene and later identified as 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami. According to Japan’s Asahi Shimbun news publication, Yamagami told investigators, “It was not because I held a political grudge toward Abe.”
Abe’s assassination death prompted celebrations among many Chinese social media users on Friday. Chinese government officials distanced themselves from the popular celebrations of Abe’s death on Chinese social media.
In a Friday press conference after Abe was shot but before his death was confirmed, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lijian Zhao said, “We are following the updates and hope that former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be out of danger and recover soon. We would like to extend sympathies to his family.”
When asked on Friday about comments from Chinese social media users that Abe had “mishandled Japan’s relations with China,” Zhao said, “I am not going to comment on the remarks posted online. I’ve just stated the position of the Chinese government. This unexpected incident should not be linked to China-Japan relations.”