(Bloomberg) — World leaders expressed shock at the news that former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was fighting for his life after being shot Friday. Messages calling for his recovery poured in for the political titan who is widely credited with reviving the nation’s economy, and was seen as a close friend by other major democracies.
Japan’s longest-serving premier was shot from about 3 meters (10 feet) from behind during a campaign event in the city of Nara ahead of a parliamentary election this weekend. The attack stunned a nation where political violence and guns are extremely rare.
Abe, 67, comes from a conservative political dynasty and had a reputation as a deft political operator who maintained enduring influence after leaving office.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on the sidelines of the Group of 20 meetings in Bali that he was “deeply saddened and deeply concerned” by the shooting, adding that “our thoughts, our prayers are with him, with his family, with the people of Japan.”
“Former Prime Minister Abe is not only my good friend, but also Taiwan’s most staunch friend,” Taiwan’s leader Tsai Ing-wen wrote in a Facebook post. “He has supported Taiwan for many years and spared no effort in promoting the progress of Taiwan-Japan relations. I hope former Prime Minister Abe can get out of danger as soon as possible.”
Japan and Taiwan enjoy close but unofficial ties that have deepened in recent years, with the democratic island’s security status having a direct impact on its neighbor.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “deeply distressed by the attack on my dear friend Abe Shinzo” in a post on Twitter. “Our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family and the people of Japan,” he added.
The two nations are both part of the so-called Quad grouping that also includes the US and Australia. Abe visited India several times as Japan’s premier, and the two leaders launched a “special strategic and global partnership” collaborating on areas including civilian nuclear energy and maritime security.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, the G-20 event’s host, expressed his country’s “deepest sympathies” and called for “the speedy recovery of the former prime minister” on behalf of the gathering of the world’s biggest economies.
President Xi Jinping hasn’t made a statement. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China was shocked by the attack at a regular press briefing Friday afternoon, and said the shooting shouldn’t be linked with China-Japan ties.
Abe stabilized Tokyo’s relationship with Beijing while in office, restoring official visits and opening the nation’s doors to Chinese tourists. But mistrust simmered, and Abe’s visit to a controversial shrine honoring Japan’s war dead — including convicted criminals — days after leaving office infuriated Beijing.
Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the news was “shocking” in a Twitter post, adding: “Our thoughts are with his family and the people of Japan at this time.”
Outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter: “Utterly appalled and saddened to hear about the despicable attack on Shinzo Abe. My thoughts are with his family and loved ones.”
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on Abe’s shooting, saying in a statement: “We are aware of the related media reports.” Separately, Foreign Minister Park Jin in Bali called the incident “extremely shocking.”
Abe had built support at home by taking a tough line on Japan’s neighbor, and former South Korean President Moon Jae-in built support by responding. Relations between the two traditional foes worsened on issues such as wartime “comfort women” and trade.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose country has battled gun crime during her tenure, wrote on Twitter that she was “deeply shocked.”
“He was one of the first leaders I met when I became PM. He was deeply committed to his role but also generous & kind,” she said. “My thoughts are with his wife and the people of Japan. Events like this shake us all to the core.”
President Emmanuel Macron wrote in French on Twitter: “Profoundly shocked by the heinous attack of which Shinzo Abe was the victim. My thoughts are with the family and those close to a great prime minister. France is with the Japanese people.”