Flash Points

Themed journeys through our archive.

How Shinzo Abe Shaped Japan’s Foreign Policy

And made Tokyo a major player across the Indo-Pacific.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives for a bi-lateral meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May at the United Nations Headquarters on September 20, 2016 in New York City.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives for a bi-lateral meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May at the United Nations Headquarters on September 20, 2016 in New York City.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives for a bi-lateral meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May at the United Nations Headquarters on September 20, 2016 in New York City. WPA Pool/Getty Images

On Friday, Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister of Japan, died after being shot in the chest during a campaign event in Nara, Japan. Abe’s assassination has stunned Japan—a country where obtaining a gun is nearly impossible and political violence is relatively rare—as well as the foreign-policy community. Under Abe’s tenure, Tokyo pursued a newly ambitious foreign policy and shaped the security architecture of the Indo-Pacific for years to come.

In this edition of Flash Points, we explore the controversial legacy of Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, from his “Abenomics” program to his impact on the Japan-South Korea relationship and his role in laying the groundwork for the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. —Chloe Hadavas

‘How Could This Happen in Japan?’

Abe killing shocks one of the world’s safest countries, William Sposato writes.

On Friday, Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister of Japan, died after being shot in the chest during a campaign event in Nara, Japan. Abe’s assassination has stunned Japan—a country where obtaining a gun is nearly impossible and political violence is relatively rare—as well as the foreign-policy community. Under Abe’s tenure, Tokyo pursued a newly ambitious foreign policy and shaped the security architecture of the Indo-Pacific for years to come.

In this edition of Flash Points, we explore the controversial legacy of Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, from his “Abenomics” program to his impact on the Japan-South Korea relationship and his role in laying the groundwork for the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. —Chloe Hadavas


People mourn former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's killing
People mourn former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's killing

People pay their respects in front of a makeshift memorial outside Yamato-Saidaiji Station, where former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot earlier in the day, in Nara, Japan, on July 8. Philip Fong/AFP via Getty Images

‘How Could This Happen in Japan?’

Abe killing shocks one of the world’s safest countries, William Sposato writes.


A closeup photo shows a smiling Abe wearing a blue suit.
A closeup photo shows a smiling Abe wearing a blue suit.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends an event before the Liberal Democratic Party’s annual convention in Tokyo on Feb. 10, 2019.Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

How Shinzo Abe Changed Japan

The assassinated former prime minister leaves behind a complex legacy, Tobias Harris writes.


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam's Kilo Pier on December 27, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam's Kilo Pier on December 27, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam’s Kilo Pier in Honolulu on Dec. 27, 2016. Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

Abe’s Legacy Will Outlive Him

Washington mourns the man who made Japan a real security ally in the Indo-Pacific, FP’s Jack Detsch and Amy Mackinnon report.


An anti-Japan rally in Seoul
An anti-Japan rally in Seoul

A South Korean protester attaches fake money on a picture of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during an anti-Japan rally outside the National Assembly in Seoul on Dec. 5, 2019.Jeon Yeon-je/AP via Getty Images

Abe Ruined the Most Important Democratic Relationship in Asia

His ultranationalism destroyed ties with South Korea, S. Nathan Park writes.


Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe takes off his protective mask as he begins a news conference in Tokyo on May 25. Kim Kyung-Hoon/Getty Images

Unloved But Successful, Shinzo Abe Takes His Bow

The longest-ever-serving Japanese prime minister steered the country through rocky years, William Sposato writes.

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