PM Kishida, opposition lawmakers at odds over Abe state funeral

Japan's Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and opposition lawmakers have remained at odds over holding a state funeral for former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo at out-of-session Diet meetings.

Abe was fatally shot while election campaigning in July. His state funeral is scheduled for September 27 in Tokyo.

The meetings of the upper and lower house steering committees were held on Thursday. Kishida sought understanding for his decision to hold the state funeral. But the opposition camp criticized the Cabinet's approval of the decision when no specific rule for holding such funerals exists.

Kishida said Abe was the country's longest-serving prime minister, bearing the post's heavy responsibility for eight years and eight months.

He also said holding the rite as a state function is for both mourning Abe and showing the country's resolve to protect democracy without yielding to violence.

Kishida added that he will have intensive talks with visiting foreign dignitaries and stress to the world and at home the intent to inherit and further develop Abe's diplomatic legacy.

In a question-and-answer session of the lower house committee, the president of the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party called Kishida's decision wrong.

Izumi Kenta asked whether it was appropriate for the prime minister and his Cabinet to make the decision alone, and said the unilateral decision has drawn criticism.

Izumi also said Sato Eisaku was Japan's longest-serving postwar prime minister when he died and had won a Nobel Peace Prize, but did not have a state funeral.

The opposition leader said Abe's funeral should be one hosted by the Cabinet, rather than a state function that was arbitrarily decided on and divides the nation.

Kishida responded that he would humbly admit that his explanations were insufficient, and that he will continue to thoroughly explain the decision.

He also said a decision must be made in view of the international and domestic situations even if a criterion is established.

He added that the government has to decide on all such matters from a comprehensive point of view.