Australia will be represented by its head of government and three former leaders at Shinzo Abe’s state funeral this month in an extraordinary show of respect for Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Thursday that former prime ministers John Howard, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull would join the official Australian delegation.
The former prime ministers had all worked with Abe during his two terms from 2006 to 2007 and from 2012 to 2020, Albanese said.
Scott Morrison, who led Australia’s government from 2018 until the May election, is the only surviving former Conservative prime minister not to be part of the delegation.
Albanese, whose centre-left Labor Party came to power in May, will be in Japan from September 26-28.
“Abe was an outstanding leader, a catalyst for change in Japan and the region, a true friend to Australia,” Albanese said in a statement.
“Under Abe’s leadership, Australia and Japan deepened our economic ties, our defense cooperation and our people-to-people ties, he was deeply committed to deepening the relationship between our two countries,” Albanese added. .
Abe, 67, was shot dead in July on a street in western Japan by a gunman who opened fire on him from behind as he gave a campaign speech.
His state funeral is scheduled for September 27 and has divided public opinion in Japan. The only other state funeral held for a former head of government in post-war Japan was for the prime minister who signed the treaty ending the US occupation of Japan.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida insisted Abe deserved a state funeral for raising Japan’s global profile as its longest serving post-war leader. He said Japan should respond courteously to the “outpouring of condolences” from foreign leaders.
Vice President Kamala Harris will lead the US delegation.