Vice President Kamala Harris attends the state funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo
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Vice President Kamala Harris attended the state funeral of slain former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday, as Tokyo was placed under maximum security due to the high-profile procession.
Harris represented the United States at the ceremony, which was attended by about 4,300 people. Other foreign dignitaries present at Abe’s funeral include Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Harris was seated next to Rahm Emanuel, the US ambassador to Japan, who previously served as mayor of Chicago.
Abe, one of Japan’s most polarizing leaders, was shot and killed while campaigning in Nara, western Japan, in July – the first assassination of a former Japanese prime minister since 1936.
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His sudden death sparked mixed reactions across the country. Hundreds of people laid bouquets of flowers at Kudanzaka Park in honor of Abe on Tuesday, while former President Trump hailed him as « a man who loved and cherished his beautiful country » following his dead.
Despite Abe’s popularity as Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, protests were also planned for the day of his funeral.
The holding of funerals itself is a controversial topic in Japan. Current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida argued that Abe deserved a grand funeral and said no one was obligated to honor Abe.
But Kishida has been criticized for hosting the expensive event, which is expected to cost $11.5 million. Many protesting Japanese citizens have also criticized the ruling party’s close relationship with the Unification Church, saying the church solicits donations from « brainwashing » citizens.
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Tetsuya Yamagami, the man charged with Abe’s murder, reportedly told police he was motivated to kill Abe because of his Unification Church affiliation. He was upset that his mother had donated much of her family’s money to the church.
Abe’s ashes were carried to the Nippon Budokan arena by his wife, Akie Abe. A cannon shot rang out several times for the procession and was heard inside the arena where people were seated.
Prime Minister Fumio eulogized Abe in Japanese. Other Japanese politicians followed with their own speeches and faced Abe’s ashes as they spoke. Abe’s widow was seen on the projector screen wiping away tears throughout the funeral.
Towards the end of the funeral, foreign dignitaries approached to lay flowers at the front of the stage, including Vice President Harris and other members of the American delegation.
Vice President Harris is scheduled to visit the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the Koreas on Thursday.
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His visit comes just days after North Korea fired a ballistic missile at sea and amid fears of a possible nuclear test as the Biden administration attempts to get closer to North Korean leader Kim Jong. One failed.
Harris’ visit will be the first by a senior Biden administration official.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.