San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg says assassinated Japan ex-leader strengthened countries’ ties

San Antonio and Kumamoto, Japan have been sister cities since 1987

FILE - Then Japan's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during his first press conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012. Former Japanese Prime Minister Abe, a divisive arch-conservative and one of his nation's most powerful and influential figures, has died after being shot during a campaign speech Friday, July 8, 2022, in western Japan, hospital officials said. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File) (Shizuo Kambayashi, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg shared his condolences for former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as news broke about his assassination on Friday.

Abe, 67, who was the country’s longest-serving prime minister, was shot from behind as he delivered a campaign speech in western Japan. He was airlifted to the hospital in the city of Nara, where he received blood transfusions although he was not breathing and his heart had stopped.

He was later pronounced dead, shocking the people of Japan and leaders around the world.

In a Tweet, Nirenberg said that Abe strengthened “important ties” between the United States and Japan during his leadership.

That includes the relationship between San Antonio and Kumamoto, which have been sister cities since 1987, Nirenberg said.

Since then, Kumamoto has sent artifacts and “living national treasures” to San Antonio for the Japanese garden, the Kumamoto En, at the Botanical Garden.

San Antonio sent the city a 19th-century prairie cabin in return.

“San Antonio joins the world in mourning his loss,” the mayor said on Twitter. “May his steadfast work of connecting our communities continue.”

In a statement to the New York Times, President Joe Biden said he was “stunned” and “outraged” by the news concerning his “friend.”

“While there are many details that we do not yet know, we know that violent attacks are never acceptable and that gun violence always leaves a deep scar on the communities that are affected by it. The United States stands with Japan in this moment of grief. I send my deepest condolences to his family,” Biden said in a statement to the newspaper.

Even though he was out of office, Abe was still highly influential in the governing Liberal Democratic Party and headed its largest faction, Seiwakai. Upper house elections in Japan are due to take place later this week.

When he resigned as prime minister in 2020, Abe said he had a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis he’d had since he was a teenager.

He told reporters at the time that it was “gut-wrenching” to leave many of his goals unfinished. He spoke of his failure to resolve the issue of Japanese abducted years ago by North Korea, a territorial dispute with Russia and a revision of Japan’s war-renouncing constitution.

Abe was proud of his work to strengthen Japan’s security alliance with the U.S. and shepherding the first visit by a serving U.S. president to the atom-bombed city of Hiroshima.

Abe became Japan’s youngest prime minister in 2006, at age 52.

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Rebecca Salinas joined KSAT in the fall of 2019. Her skills include content management, engagement and reporting.