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Vice President Kamala Harris attended the state funeral of slain former prime minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday as Tokyo was placed under maximum security due to the high-profile procession.
Harris represented the United States at the ceremony, which was attended by about 4,300 people. Other foreign dignitaries at Abe’s funeral included Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Harris sat next to Rahm Emanuel, the US ambassador to Japan, who previously served as mayor of Chicago.
Abe, one of Japan’s most polarizing leaders, was shot dead while campaigning in Nara, western Japan, in July, the first assassination of a former Japanese prime minister since 1936.
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His sudden death caused mixed reactions across the country. Hundreds of people laid flowers in Kudanzaka Park in honor of Abe on Tuesday, while former President Trump praised him as “a man who loved and loved his magnificent country” after his death.
Despite Abe’s popularity as the longest-serving prime minister in Japan’s history, protests were also planned on the day of his funeral.
The funeral itself is a controversial issue in Japan. Current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida maintained that Abe deserved a grand funeral and said that no one is obligated to honor Abe.
But Kishida has come under fire for holding the expensive event, which is expected to cost $11.5 million. Many protesting Japanese citizens also criticized the ruling party’s close relationship with the Unification Church, saying the church obtains donations by “brainwashing” citizens.
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Tetsuya Yamagami, the man accused of murdering Abe, allegedly told police he was motivated to kill Abe because of his affiliation with the Unification Church. He was upset that his mother gave a large amount of his family’s money to the church.
Abe’s ashes were carried to the Nippon Budokan arena by his wife, Akie Abe. A cannon boom sounded several times for the procession and could be heard inside the arena where people were sitting.
Prime Minister Fumio praised Abe in Japanese. Other Japanese politicians followed with their own speeches, facing Abe’s ashes as they spoke. Abe’s widow was seen on a projector screen wiping away tears throughout the funeral.
Towards the end of the funeral, foreign dignitaries came up to lay flowers at the front of the stage, including Vice President Harris and other members of the US delegation.
Vice President Harris plans to visit the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the Koreas on Thursday.
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His visit comes just days after North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the sea and amid fears of a possible nuclear test, as the Biden administration’s attempts to reach out to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have failed.
Harris’ visit will be the first by a senior official in the Biden administration.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.