Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resigned Friday because a chronic illness resurfaced and he said he did not want it to affect his decision-making.
Abe, 65, has for years suffered from ulcerative colitis, a disease that inflames the bowels. Concerns about Abe’s health began this summer and grew this month when he visited a Tokyo hospital two weeks in a row for unspecified health checkups.
He has had the condition since he was a teenager.
“It is gut-wrenching to have to leave my job before accomplishing my goals,” he said.
Abe has cultivated a strong relationship with President Donald Trump and the impact of his departure on U.S.-Japan ties, and world affairs, is not clear.
There was no immediate reaction from the White House.
According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington, D.C.-based foreign affairs and public policy think thank, no foreign leader has closer ties with Trump than Abe. “Since the 2016 presidential election,” CSIS wrote in a recent report, “the two leaders have met 20 times, played 5 rounds of golf, and had 32 phone calls, at times speaking twice a week.”
Abe’s term ends in September 2021. He is expected to stay on until a new party leader is elected and formally approved by the parliament.
Abe was elected in 2012 and it is the second time he has resigned as prime minister as a result of his battles with ulcerative colitis. He last stepped down in 2007.
According to the publication, Abe will stay as Prime Minister until a successor is found. In his alleged emotional farewell Abe reportedly said:
I made a judgement I should not continue my job as a prime minister. I would like to sincerely apologise to the people of Japan for leaving my post with one year left in my term of office, and amid the coronavirus woes, while various policies are still in the process of being implemented.
Abe reportedly apologised for failing to fulfil his promises which are:
- Forcing North Korea to return Japanese citizens abducted decades ago
- Sorting out a territorial dispute with Russia
- Overhauling the constitution to give more power to the military.
Shigeru Ishiba, a 63-year-old hawkish former defense minister and Abe’s archrival, is a favorite next leader in media surveys, though he is less popular within Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party.