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Tokyo stepping up preparations for “funeral diplomacy”

Tokyo, July 23 (Jiji Press)–The Japanese government is ramping up preparations for “funeral diplomacy” as dignitaries around the world are expected to visit the country for the state funeral of assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The Foreign Ministry will set up a state funeral preparatory office to accept foreign guests.

There is strong interest in who will visit Japan for Abe’s funeral, to be held at the Nippon Budokan hall in Tokyo on Sept. 27, with particular attention being paid to former U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian officials.

“I have a renewed understanding of what a big footprint former Prime Minister Abe has left in diplomacy,” Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said at a press conference Friday, noting that many countries have sent messages of condolences over the passing of Abe.

“We will show our firm determination to protect democracy (through the state funeral of Abe) without bowing to violence,” Hayashi said.

Abe led Japan for the longest period since the start of constitutional government in the country, serving as prime minister for a total of eight years and eight months, and engaged in “diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map.”

Since the start of his second tenure in December 2012, Abe visited as many as 80 countries and regions, and forged personal ties with their leaders.

A government official said that “a considerable number of foreign dignitaries are expected to come to offer condolences.”

The government will work on arranging a series of meetings between world leaders and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida or Hayashi on the occasion of the state funeral of Abe, with the Foreign Ministry preparatory office, comprising about 30 members, at the center of the work.

Abe was shot while delivering a stump speech in the western Japan city of Nara on July 8 and confirmed dead within the day.

Special envoys and ambassadors from over 150 countries and regions paid visits to the funeral of former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi in 2000, hosted jointly by the cabinet and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Then U.S. President Bill Clinton and then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung also came to Japan for the memorial service.

This time, U.S. President Joe Biden is widely viewed as not coming to Japan for Abe’s funeral, and Vice President Kamala Harris may pay a visit instead, sources said.

U.S. media reported that Trump, who had close ties with Abe, is considering attending the funeral. Tokyo should take great care to ensure that Trump, who has suggested his intent to run in the next U.S. presidential election, and members of the current U.S. administration will not come face to face during their visits to Japan, a senior Foreign Ministry official said.

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine still ongoing, a diplomatic source suggested that Russian dignitaries will unlikely come under the current situation.

But Japan has notified Russia of the state funeral. If the Russian side shows an intent to take part in the funeral, Tokyo may face the difficult task of dealing with the situation.

China sent a then vice premier to Obuchi’s funeral, and a diplomatic source said that a senior Beijing official may come to Japan this time as well.

“There may be a mood to try to advance Japan-China ties through the funeral diplomacy,” the source added.

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