TOKYO — Japan will spend $1.83 million on a state funeral for slain former leader Shinzo Abe, the government said on Friday, despite growing opposition from a public angered by revelations of the ruling party’s ties to the Unification Church.
Abe, Japan’s longest-serving but divisive premier, was shot and killed at an election rally on July 8, and although funeral services were held soon after, Japan has decided to hold a state funeral at Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan arena on Sept. 27.
The government of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, an Abe protege, decided the state funeral would be paid for solely with state funds.
But opinion polls show persistent opposition to the idea. In the latest, published on Sunday, 53% of respondents were against a state funeral.
The public has been angered by revelations of ties between the ruling party and the Unification Church, which a vast majority of respondents in opinion polls feel have not been fully explained and have become a major headache for Kishida, dragging down his support.
The church, founded in South Korea in the 1950s and famous for its mass weddings, has over the years faced questions over how it solicits donations.
Abe’s suspected assassin, arrested at the scene moments after the shooting, bore a grudge against the church, alleging it bankrupted his mother, and he blamed Abe for promoting it, according to his social media posts and news reports.
The man is undergoing psychiatric evaluation, media has reported.
“Abe was highly regarded both within Japan and internationally, and there have been many messages of condolence (since his death),” chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a news conference.
“We believe it is necessary for Japan as a country to respond to that as international etiquette, and so we decided that it is best to conduct this funeral as an official event hosted by the government and have international visitors attend,” he said.
Japan’s last fully state-funded funeral for a prime minister was for Shigeru Yoshida in 1967. Subsequent ones have been paid for by both the state and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), of which Abe was an influential member.
Several current and former world leaders are expected to attend, with news reports saying arrangements were being made for former US President Barack Obama to take part.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend, the Kremlin said in July. ($1 = 136.7000 yen) — Reuters