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Friday 8 July 2022

Japan Society Chairman's Blog (52)

Japan Society Chairman's Blog (52)

Dear Japan Society members and friends

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida really spoke for all of us when he said he was "at a loss for words" about the assassination today of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. I imagine all of us felt just like that when we woke up to read the news of the shooting at the campaign event in beautiful Nara and then a short while later learned that he had died. You may want to know that I wrote this morning to Ambassador Hayashi, who is also of course our President, to say the following:On behalf of the Japan Society, of all its members and associated friends of Japan, I send my sincerest and deepest condolences for the tragic and shocking assassination of former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo.We are saddened by this terrible loss and the devastating shock that this has given to Mr Abe's family, to the whole Government of Japan, and in fact to all the people of Japan.Prime Minister Abe's legacy is an important and highly significant one, particularly for Japan's overall foreign policy in the Indo-Pacific and worldwide, for his defence of liberal values, and for the consequent strengthening and broadening of the UK-Japan relationship.Much more can and will be said about Prime Minister Abe and his legacy, both domestically and in international affairs, but personally I tend to think that his role in reinforcing and recasting Japan’s foreign and security posture does represent his biggest and most lasting influence. In my other capacity as chair of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, I cannot help reflecting on the arc that connects Prime Minister Abe’s keynote speech in 2014 to the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, the Asia’s premier security event, and the keynote speech given this year by his successor but one, Prime Minister Kishida.Yet policy is not all that we should be reflecting upon at such a tragic moment. Neither the UK nor Japan can, thank goodness, be counted as violent countries, especially in terms of politics, so when such violence occurs it brings a very profound sense of shock and even disorientation. All of us in the UK will remember the tragic death at the hands of an assassin of Jo Cox, the Labour MP for Batley and Spen, in 2016, and then that of David Amess, the Conservative MP for Southend West, in October last year, and can therefore begin to sense the way our Japanese friends may feel today about this brutal killing of the man who really towered over Japanese politics for the past decade. Political violence is not entirely unknown in Japan – NHK today reminded us of incidents and tragedies that have occurred but which I, at least, had forgotten – but certainly as in Britain it is so rare as to make politics a remarkably open and very public activity. I can only hope that in both our countries that openness can and will be preserved.Finally, for all those who are able to attend next Tuesday’s Annual Dinner at the Chelsea Physic Garden – and there are still a few places available if you wish to come – we will make sure during the evening to mark today’s tragedy in a suitable way.Bill

Image: Shinzo Abe speaking at 2014 Shangri-La Dialogue (IISS)

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