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Shinzo Abe Remembered: 'Even Now There Are Things I Want to Ask Him' Says Prime Minister Kishida

Shinzo Abe provided Japan with strong leadership for a record length of 8 years and 8 months, leaving behind the foundation for regional peace and security.



Prime Minister Shinzo Abe raises his hand to the press after visiting Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo's Kudanshita district. (© Sankei by Ikue Mio)

July 8 marks the first anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Earlier, on July 6, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida sat for an interview with The Sankei Shimbun. He pledged to do his utmost to realize constitutional reform and a final settlement of the North Korea abductions issue. Both are goals Abe worked hard for while alive.

Excerpts from Prime Minister Kishida's interview follow. 

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida giving an interview to the Sankei Shimbun at the prime minister's official residence. July 6, 2023. (© Sankei by Yasuhiro Yajima)

Shinzo Abe Paved the Way

It will soon be one year since former Prime Minister Abe's death. And once again I feel the gravity of our loss. 

We were both initially elected to the House of Representatives in 1993. We were aware of each other in the sense that we were often liable to be compared. And that gave us a sense of solidarity. That feeling certainly existed. 

In fact, I always felt I had a special relationship with former Prime Minister Abe. When he was secretary-general of the Liberal-Democratic Party, I was director-general of the party's Treasury Bureau. 

Also, when Abe's father, former Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe was serving as party secretary-general, my own father, former Diet member Fumitake Kishida, was likewise director-general of the Treasury Bureau. Perhaps it was fate that two generations from our families served in the same positions. 

Furthermore, the first time I held a Cabinet post was in the First Abe Administration. And the second time was in the Second Abe Cabinet.

An unforgettable event occurred when I was serving as foreign minister. It was in 2016. Then, under Prime Minister Abe, we were able to arrange a visit to Hiroshima by United States President Barack Obama. I believe that visit paved the way for the recent G7 Hiroshima Summit

People line up to pay respects to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a stand set up near where he was shot in Nara Prefecture on the morning of July 8, 2023,(© Sankei by Yuta Yasumoto)

Longest Serving Prime Minister

Earlier, we spent more than 200 hours together answering opposition party questions. That was during the 2015 Diet debate on legislation related to peace and security. But Prime Minister Abe and I were able to get through that together. That experience has proved to be a great asset in my political life.

Shinzo Abe provided Japan with strong leadership for a record length of eight years and eight months. The tremendous achievements he left behind created the foundation for peace and security for Japan and the international community. 

Among those achievements were his economic policies to escape deflation. Also, the promotion of the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) concept and framing of security-related legislation. 


We must now build on the achievements he has bequeathed us and produce results domestically and internationally. I feel strongly that we must carry on his achievements.

Even after I became prime minister, I would bother him for advice and encouragement by visiting his office. It is Room No. 1212 in the 1st Members' Office Building of the House of Representatives. 

There have been many occasions since his death when I very much wanted to ask his opinion about some matter. However, we must remain strong in spirit and strive to repay his legacy. I see that as my mission. 

We look to politics to produce results. These days I am keenly aware that the prime minister must make the decisions in the end.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks in an interview on July 6. (© Sankei by Yasuhiro Yajima)

Not a Question of Hawks or Doves

On July 9, the number of days I have been in office as prime minister as a member of the Kochikai (Kishida Faction) will match the previous record set by former Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa at 644 days. Length is of course important. But what the office holder gets done is what really matters. 

One by one, we are achieving results on difficult issues that are said to occur only once in decades. However, there are no shortcuts or easy outs. I want to continue to get things accomplished without becoming fixated on the number of days in office. My results will determine how long I continue in office. 

It is often said that members of the Kochikai are doves, while those in the Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyukai (Abe Faction), to which former Prime Minister Abe belonged, are hawks. But times have changed. On the one hand, in international society, you have the standoff between the United States and China

Meanwhile, at the same time, the importance of newly developed and developing countries in the Global South is clearly growing. I feel that the distinction between doves and hawks is becoming meaningless in this age where complex things are intertwined.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shaking hands with Hitomi Soga (left), Sakie Yokota, and other family members of abductees at a national rally on the North Korean abductions issue on September 17, 2016, in Tokyo.

Abe's Two Key Issues

In regards to constitutional reform, it is an issue that former Prime Minister Abe was passionate about. I have said that I would like to achieve this during my current term as LDP president. (That will end in the fall of 2024.) I have not changed my mind one iota on that score.

North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals are a critical human rights issue with time constraints. The victims as well as their families are fast aging. Therefore, the government must make it a top priority for all these unfortunate abductees to return home as soon as possible.

Just yesterday I met with a former abductee Hitomi Soga. She gave me her a written request for us to hold a summit meeting with North Korea.  I would again like to express my resolve to meet face-to-face with General Secretary Kim Jong Un.


(Read the interview in Japanese.)

Interview by: Mitsuru Sakai, Chief of the Political Department of The Sankei Shimbun


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