Remembering the life and legacy of Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Authorities in Japan said a 41-year-old man who formerly served in the Japanese Navy was responsible for the death of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was shot dead with a homemade gun in a nation that has largely eliminated gun violence. Professor Mike Mochizuki, the U.S.-Japan chair at George Washington University, joins Stephanie Sy to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now Stephanie Sy has a more in-depth look at the life and legacy of Shinzo Abe.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Thank you, Judy..

    I want to bring in Professor Mike Mochizuki, who is the U.S.-Japan chair at George Washington University.

    Professor Mochizuki, thank you for joining the "NewsHour."

    Watching that astonishing video of Shinzo Abe being assassinated, a long-serving world leader taken down with a couple of shots from a homemade gun in a country that has almost eliminated gun violence. Professor, what is your reaction and what are the repercussions?

  • Mike Mochizuki, George Washington University:


    Well, first of all, I want to express my deepest condolences to Prime Minister Abe's family, friends, and colleagues, and to the entire Japanese nation. This is indeed a horrible tragedy, a shocking development for a country that does not experience this kind of violence. And this will be forever etched in the memory of the Japanese.

    And I think one of the things that is important to note is that we don't have much in terms of gun violence, because handguns are completely, completely banned. But, at the same time, over the last few decades, attacks on Japanese politicians have not been that rare.

    And so this will cause, I think, the Japanese to become much more vigilant about providing safety for politicians. But, without question, Prime Minister Abe is perhaps the most consequential prime minister that Japan has had since the end of World War II.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Let's talk a little bit more about Mr. Abe's legacy, first on the world.

    What was his greatest impact, sir? He was prime minister from 2012 to 2020. You have got Xi Jinping of China consolidating power. You have got nuclear testing out of North Korea. You have a transition here in the United States between President Obama and President Trump.

    What really stands out to you and Mr. Abe's legacy on the world stage?

  • Mike Mochizuki:


    Well, he promoted what he called proactive peace diplomacy. And I think he will be remembered most for his vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific and his efforts to promote security cooperation among Japan, the United States, Australia and India, what is now called the Quad, or shorthand for the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.

    He also strengthened the U.S. Japan alliance by relaxing some of the constitutional constraints on defense policy, pushing for major legislative changes regarding Japan's security role. And he was especially skillful in managing relations with President Trump to prevent Trump from weakening the bilateral security alliance.

    And I think he was also instrumental in concluding the mega free trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement with the remaining 11 countries after the United States pulled out during the Trump administration.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Domestically, Mr. Abe wanted a strong Japan, or at least what he called a normal status away from the post-World War II pacifist Constitution, a restoration to some degree of military capabilities.

    He was clearly still very active in politics on this day he died. What will his lasting impact be on Japan's politics?

  • Mike Mochizuki:

    Well, he has defined what I would call a realistic and nationalistic kind of foreign policy outlook.

    And despite this terrible assassination, I think there will be many within the political class in Japan that will continue to promote his agenda of making Japan have a much more strong defense capability and a much more proactive security policy.

    But, at the same time, it is important to remember that, while Abe was prime minister, he contributed to stabilizing relations with China. Before the COVID pandemic in 2020, China-Japan relations had improved to such an extent that Chinese President Xi was slated to make a historic state visit to Japan.And the pandemic derailed that plan.

    And China-Japan relations have deteriorated again. And, in some sense, precisely because Prime Minister Abe was a conservative nationalist, it provided kind of the political space for Japan to try to stabilize relations with China from a position of strength.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Such a large impact on the world stage, which is why we're seeing condolences pour in from leaders around the world, including from the Foreign Ministry in China.

    Shinzo Abe dead at the age of 67 by an assassin in Japan today, a tragic day.

    Mike Mochizuki, chair of U.S.-Japan relations at George Washington University, thank you so much for joining the "NewsHour."

  • Mike Mochizuki:

    Thank you.

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