Australia will be represented by its government leader plus three former leaders at Shinzo Abe’s state funeral this month in an extraordinary mark of respect for Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Thursday that former Prime Ministers John Howard, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull would join Australia’s official delegation.
The former prime ministers had all worked with Abe during his two terms in office from 2006 to 2007 and from 2012 to 2020, Albanese said.
Scott Morrison, who led the Australian government from 2018 until the May election, is the only surviving conservative former prime minister who will not be part of the delegation.
Albanese, whose center-left Labor Party came to power in May, will be in Japan from Sept. 26 to 28.
“Mr. Abe was a remarkable leader, a catalyst for change in Japan and the region, a true friend of Australia,” Albanese said in a statement.
“Under Mr. Abe’s leadership, Australia and Japan deepened our economic ties, defense cooperation and people-to-people links — he was deeply committed to furthering relations between our two countries,” Albanese added.
Abe, 67, was shot to death in July on a street in western Japan by a gunman who opened fire on him from behind as he delivered a campaign speech.
The state funeral for him is scheduled for Sept. 27 and has split public opinion in Japan. The only other state funeral held for a former government leader in postwar Japan was for the prime minister who signed the treaty that ended the U.S. occupation of Japan.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has insisted Abe deserved a state funeral for raising Japan’s global profile as its longest-serving postwar leader. He said Japan must respond with courtesy to the “outpouring of condolences” from foreign leaders.
Vice President Kamala Harris will lead the U.S. delegation.