Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis describes Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as ‘heck of an ally’

Abe, 67, assassinated during speech

FILE - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022, in Miami. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier) (Marta Lavandier, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday expressed condolences to the people of Japan after former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated at a campaign event in the city of Nara.

Calling Abe “a great leader” and a “heck of an ally to this country,” DeSantis also said the death will “cast a pall” over upcoming trade meetings hosted by Florida with the Japan Association.

“He understood freedom. He understood the threat posed by China,” DeSantis said during an appearance in Cape Coral. “And he understood the importance of having a strong U.S.-Japan relationship.”

Abe, 67, was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, holding the position from 2006 to 2007 and from 2012 to 2020, when he stepped down citing health reasons.

Abe was shot Friday while giving a campaign speech.

Florida in November will host the annual Southeast U.S./Japan Joint Meeting Program in Orlando. Florida is one of seven states in the Southeast U.S. that, along with Japan, host on a rotating basis the meetings to increase business ties and investment.

“We’re so looking forward to that. But this news is certainly going to cast a pall over that,” DeSantis said.

He added, “We hope that the people of Japan get through this time properly. And we will certainly be keeping them in our thoughts and prayers.”