US hails Abe as 'man of vision' as family prepares wake
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Washington's top diplomat hailed assassinated former prime minister Shinzo Abe as a "man of vision" as he offered condolences Monday in Tokyo, where family will later hold a wake for the murdered politician.
Japan's ruling coalition meanwhile declared victory in a sombre election held Sunday, just two days after Abe was gunned down on the campaign trail.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a previously unscheduled trip to Japan while on an Asia tour and said he was there because "we're friends, and when one friend is hurting, the other friend shows up."
Abe "did more than anyone to elevate the relationship between the United States and Japan to new heights," he added, after meeting Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
"We will do everything we can to help our friends carry the burden of this loss," he said, calling Abe "a man of vision with the ability to realise that vision."
Blinken said he handed Kishida letters from US President Joe Biden for Abe's family, who later Monday will hold a private wake for the country's longest-serving prime minister at Zojoji temple in Tokyo.
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Top politicians and business figures are expected to attend, with a family funeral held at the same location on Tuesday and public memorials at a later date.
The man accused of Abe's murder, 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, is in custody and has told police he targeted the former leader because he believed he was linked to a specific organisation that authorities have not yet named.
Japanese media reports said he blamed the group, described as a religious organisation, for his family's financial troubles because his mother made large donations to them.
Investigative sources told local media that Yamagami, who spent three years in Japan's navy, had watched YouTube videos to help learn how to build homemade guns like the one used in the attack.
Sunday's election went ahead despite the assassination, with Kishida saying it was important to show violence would not defeat democracy.
Abe's long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito won 76 of the 125 upper house seats up for grabs, up from the 69 seats they previously held, according to national news outlets.
The victory had been widely expected even before the assassination.
Both parties belong to what is now a two-thirds supermajority open to amending the country's pacifist constitution. Abe long sought to reform the document to recognise the country's military.
Kishida, who took office in September, has pledged to tackle the pandemic, inflation and issues related to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and there was speculation that Friday's attack could bolster his support.
But turnout was up only marginally, and still low at a reported 52 percent.
A record 35 female candidates were elected, and some fringe candidates also won for the first time including one from an anti-vaccination party.
Abe was the scion of a political family and became the country's youngest post-war prime minister when he took power for the first time in 2006, aged 52.
His hawkish, nationalist views were divisive, particularly his desire to reform Japan's pacifist constitution to recognise the country's military, and he weathered a series of scandals, including allegations of cronyism.
But he was lauded by others for his economic strategy, dubbed "Abenomics," and his efforts to put Japan firmly on the world stage, including by cultivating close ties with Biden's predecessor Donald Trump.