“Widely recognized is his economic policy agenda called ‘Abenomics’ that introduced a three-pronged strategy of monetary easing, fiscal stimulus, and structural reform”
A state funeral in honor of the death of a head of government, current or former, is an expected ritual observed by countries and attended by high representatives if not the leaders of other nations.
The state funeral of the United Kingdom’s longest reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is an historical event we are now witnessing that exemplifies the importance of respecting this universally valued tradition.
However, in Japan the situation is different. When Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio announced the Cabinet decision to schedule a state funeral for September 27 to mourn the shocking death of former prime minister Shinzo Abe under the hands of an assassin, the announcement drew protests opposing the decision.
Findings of an NHK poll showed a divided public sentiment on the decision to hold the government-funded funeral.
In retrospect of former PM Abe’s political career, his prominence rose when he returned to office in 2020 where he initiated sweeping reforms in Japanese foreign and security policy.
He has been influential in shaping the concept of the “Indo-Pacific” as early as 2007 when he expressed his aspiration before the Indian Parliament for a “broader Asia” in “the confluence of the two seas of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.”
He strongly believed in forging deep friendships with the citizens of democratic nations on opposite sides of the seas.
He was a staunch champion of forging alliances with fellow liberal democracies across Asia.
It was under his term that Japan sought to revive the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) with India, Australia, and the United States in an effort to convince like-minded states to pursue a “free and open order” across the Indo-Pacific.
Widely recognized is his economic policy agenda called “Abenomics” that introduced a three-pronged strategy of monetary easing, fiscal stimulus, and structural reform.
This pumped Japan’s economy back on track and resulted in increased GDP, tax revenues, and lowered unemployment rate to below 3 percent.
Abenomics was sustained by the succeeding administration and has been credited by many analysts for improving the Japanese economy.
The strategic partnership between the Philippines and Japan was strengthened under Abe’s term especially in managing the expansion of China’s expansionist actions in the region.
In December 2012, PM Abe sent Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on a four-country Asia-Pacific diplomatic tour to convey Japan’s growing concern over Beijing’s expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea.
In Manila, Minister Kishida and then Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario agreed to closely work together in pursuit of maritime security.
During the 2013 official visit to the Philippines, PM Abe’s meeting with President Benigno Aquino III focused on bilateral cooperation and reinforcing Philippine-Japan security partnership.
This progressed into the 2015 joint declaration titled “A Strengthened Strategic Partnership for Advancing the Shared Principles and Goals for Peace, Security, and Growth in the Region and Beyond” to reiterate the two nations’ shared commitment in ensuring peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region, promoting economic growth and addressing international challenges among many others.
PM Abe again came back for an official visit with former President Rodrigo Duterte where the two heads of government renewed pledges for stronger maritime cooperation and jointly resolve the South China Sea issues.
Remember that during the height of the Philippines’ stand-off with China, Japan provided coast guard vessels and reconnaissance aircraft units to the Philippines.
Among Japan’s contributions were the Multi-Role Response Vessels (MRRVs) and TC-90 reconnaissance planes.
No less than President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. led the Philippine government’s expression of grief and sympathies recognizing Abe as a visionary leader and “a devoted friend and a supporter of the Philippines, and it was during his leadership that the Philippine-Japan relations truly flourished.”
“The decisive and effective assistance he extended to the Philippines and the warmth he demonstrated in the numerous visits he made to our country will never be forgotten and will be written as one of the most exceptional periods in our bilateral history,” President Marcos Jr. said.
The death of former Japan PM Shinzo Abe has sparked strong indignation and expressions of condolences from state leaders regardless of cultural or political dynamics.
Abe’s legacy as a unifying spirit has contributed to the peace and prosperity of the international community.
Despite what may be some unique political nuances of Japanese history and society, honoring the contributions of such a great statesman of Japan with a state funeral is not just appropriate but a great opportunity for diplomacy that will bring together the leaders of the world to pay respects, remember, and hopefully start a momentum to pursue peace and shared growth.