TOKYO -- Shinzo abe was a political blueblood who was groomed to power. He was Japan's longest-serving prime minister and perhaps the most complex, polarizing politician in recent Japanese history.
Friday's assassination of Abe angered liberals in the US and World War II victims across Asia. His hawkish push for military reform and revisionist view that Japan had been unfairly judged by history for its past brutality both angered them both.
He also revitalized Japan's economic and led efforts to make the country more involved in Asia. His political stability was rare before he retired two years ago due to health reasons.
Dave Leheny, a Waseda University political scientist, said that "He's been the most powerful political figure in Japan for the past two decades." He wanted Japan to be recognized on the international stage in the manner he believed was right. ... He also wanted Japan not to have to continue apologizing to the United States for World War II."
Abe was 67 when he was shot while delivering a speech during the campaign.
The attack shocked Japan, one the most secure countries in the world with strict gun control laws. Police made the arrest of the suspect gunman on the spot. A double-barreled weapon that looked like it was made by the suspect was found near him.
Leheny stated that Abe believed Japan's postwar record of economic success, peace, and global cooperation was something that "other countries should pay attention to" and that Japan should be proud.
While Abe was loved by conservatives, he was hated by many Japanese liberals. His long-cherished and ultimately failed dream of revising Japan's war-renouncing constitution was the most divisive. His ultra-nationalist views also upset the Koreas, China, and other wartime victims of Japan.
His personal history was the reason he pushed for constitutional revision. Nobusuke Kishi's grandfather, Abe, was a former Prime Minister. He detested the U.S.-drafted constitution that was adopted under American occupation. The 1947 charter, for Abe too, was symbolic of what he considered the unfair legacy Japan's defeat in war and the imposition of Western values and world order.
This constitution prohibits Japan from using force in international conflicts and restricts Japan's military power to self-defense. Japan has a modern, well-equipped army, navy, and air force that are close allies of the United States.
Although Abe's efforts were thwarted by poor public support, his ultra-conservative supporters still back him.
Abe was adamant against the postwar treaties as well as the tribunal that convicted Japanese war criminals. His political rhetoric was often focused on Japan as a normal and beautiful nation, with a stronger military and a larger role in international affairs.
He was also a driving force behind the efforts of Japanese conservatives to whitewash wartime atrocities, and push for an end to apologies for atrocities.
Abe had a significant influence on the policies of Fumio Kishhida, who pushed for the enhancement of military capabilities, including a preemptive strike capability.
Abe was forced to resign as prime minister in 2020 after he claimed that the ulcerative colitis that he had suffered since he was a child has resurfaced.
At the time, he told reporters that it was difficult to let many of his goals go unfulfilled. He was unable to resolve several unfinished legacy of war including normalizing relations with North Korea, settling disputes with his neighbors, and signing a peace agreement with Russia, which officially ended their hostilities during World War II.
Washington praised Abe for pushing for stronger U.S.-Japan relations, which he considered a way to strengthen Japan's defense capabilities. Japan is home to 50,000 U.S. soldiers as a buffer in the region, amid tensions between China and North Korea.
Because of the fears of terrorist attacks, North Korea's missile- and nuclear weapons ambitions, and China's military assertiveness, Abe charmed conservatives by his security policies.
However, there was always broad public support for the pacifist constitution. There were also divided views within Abe's ruling party on amending it. Many legislators preferred to concentrate on economic growth.
Abe expressed pride in his work for stronger Japan-U.S. Security Alliance and guiding the first U.S. president to Hiroshima, an atom-bombed Japanese city. Abe also helped Tokyo win the right to host 2020 Olympics by promising that Fukushima's nuclear disaster was under control when it wasn't.
At 52 years old, Abe was Japan's youngest prime minster. However, his first stint as Japan's premier minister ended abruptly a year later due to his health.
That scandal-laden term ended and six years of Japanese leadership changes began. This period is remembered as an era with "revolving door" politics, which lacked stability or long-term strategies.
Abe, who combined fiscal stimulus, structural reforms, and monetary easing, returned to office in 2012.
Six national elections were won by him, and he held a firm grip on power. This strengthened Japan's defense and security alliance with America. He also increased the level of patriotic education in schools and increased Japan's international visibility.
Abe was Japan's longest-serving prime Minister by consecutive days in office. This surpasses the record held by Eisaku Sato (his great-uncle), who served 2,798 days between 1964 and 1972.
Stephen Wade, an Associated Press reporter, contributed to this report.