Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe announced his decision to step down from the post Friday, citing the return of a health problem, the Associated Press reported.
“It is gut-wrenching to have to leave my job before accomplishing my goals,” Abe said during a news conference announcing his decision, mentioning ongoing tensions with North Korea and a border dispute with Russia.
Abe said that he has had ulcerative colitis throughout most of his life and that he recently began a treatment that requires IV injections, AP reported. Though he had been able to successfully control his health problem, he said a check-up in June revealed that the condition had worsened.
“Faced with the illness and treatment, as well as the pain of lacking physical strength… I decided that I should not stay on as prime minister when I’m no longer capable of living up to the people’s expectations with confidence,” Abe said.
Abe’s resignation marks the end of his eight-year tenure which saw a strengthened relationship with the United States but heightened tensions between Japan and some of its closest neighbors, including China and both North and South Korea, AP reported.
It also comes as an economic recession has erased most of the gains made under his leadership due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to AP. While the country found initial success in curbing the virus’s spread, cases have jumped again in recent weeks, according to a Johns Hopkins University database.
Abe is expected to keep his post until a new leader is elected and approved by the Japanese Parliament, AP reported. His term was scheduled to expire in September 2021.
He became the country’s longest-serving prime minister by consecutive days on Monday, eclipsing his great-uncle who held the position from 1964-1972, according to AP.
In his statement, Abe said that he would “continue his political activity and support a new administration as a lawmaker.”