Secretary of State Antony Blinken stopped in Tokyo on Monday to offer his condolences after the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Blinken was already traveling in Southeast Asia to meet with leaders from the Group of Seven Leading Industrialized Countries and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group.
Blinken met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and other senior government officials.
“I’m really grateful to him for taking the time to see us at this incredibly difficult time,” Blinken said afterwards. “And the reason we’re here is that President Biden has personally asked me on behalf of the President, on behalf of the American people, to offer our condolences on the passing of former Prime Minister Abe.”
The US State Department said earlier in the day that the US-Japan alliance is a “cornerstone” of peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.
Blinken praised Abe on Monday as “a man of vision.”
“I shared with our Japanese colleagues the sense of loss, the sense of shock that we all, the American people, feel at this horrific tragedy and murder,” the secretary said. “During his tenure, Prime Minister Abe has really taken the relationship between our countries to new heights.”
Abe, 67, was shot and killed Friday at a campaign event in Nara, near Kyoto. Blinken is to date the most senior US official to visit the country since his death.
Biden condemned the attack Friday, calling Abe a “champion of the alliance between our nations and the friendship between our people”.
Later in the day, Biden issued a proclamation ordering that U.S. flags in the White House and at all government buildings and military bases be flown at half-mast in Abe’s memory.
Blinken’s last-minute stop in Tokyo preceded his return to the United States, which was expected to include a stop in Anchorage.
Dennis Romero contributed†