Top US diplomat Abe pays condolence visit to Japan

BANGKOK >> US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will pay a brief condolence visit to Japan next week following the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the State Department said on Sunday.

Blinken will travel to Tokyo on Monday to pay his respects to the former leader and meet with senior Japanese officials before returning to Washington from a trip to Asia he is just completing.

“Secretary Blinken will travel to Tokyo, Japan, to offer condolences to the Japanese people on the death of former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and to meet with senior Japanese officials,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. “The US-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and has never been stronger.”

Blinken is in Thailand on a pre-scheduled visit and was in Indonesia on Friday to attend a Group of 20-nation foreign ministers meeting in Bali when Abe was shot dead. He will be the senior US official to visit Japan after Abe’s death.

On Saturday in Bali, Blinken said Abe’s assassination was a “tragedy” for the world and, along with many other current and former US officials, praised the former prime minister for his vision.

“Prime Minister Abe was a transformative leader, a statesman, someone of truly global caliber,” Blinken told reporters. He added that Abe’s death had rocked the G-20 meeting, with many of his fellow foreign ministers expressing shock and sadness at the news.

Shortly after Abe was pronounced dead, Blinken met with Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa and South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin in Bali to review strategy, particularly in relation to North Korea. At that meeting, and again on Saturday, Blinken underscored the importance of US-Japan relations.

“The Japan-US alliance has been a cornerstone of our foreign policy for decades, and as I said yesterday, Prime Minister Abe has really taken this partnership to new heights,” he said.

“The friendship between the Japanese and American people is also unshakable,” Blinken said. “So we stand with the people of Japan, with the Prime Minister’s family, after a really, really appalling act of violence.”

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