Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who led Japan for eight consecutive years, has said he is stepping down hours after he informed his ruling coalition that he was suffering from health issues.
Explaining his decision earlier in the day, Shinzo Abe said he feared the illness would affect his decision-making. “I will not be able to make proper judgments due to illness,” the outgoing premier clarified, as quoted by Kyodo news agency.
Abe has been suffering from ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory chronic disease, for many years. The prime minister himself revealed that his condition started to worsen around the middle of the last month, possibly prompting him to consider stepping down.
Moving on, Abe apologized “from the bottom of my heart” to his fellow countrymen, adding that he didn’t want his resignation to cause trouble for Japan’s domestic politics. With his eyes getting misty, the prime minister said it is now up to the Japanese to judge his legacy.
“It is a pity that I was unable to resolve the abduction issue myself. It breaks my heart to leave office without realizing my ambition of signing a peace treaty with Russia, passing a constitutional amendment,” Abe told.
Moscow and Tokyo never signed a formal peace agreement after World War II, with the dispute over four Kuril Islands being the stumbling block. Japan continues to claim all four of the islands, with Russia objecting to the blanket handover.
Attempting to take steps closer to signing the milestone pact was one of the main foreign policy ventures for Abe, but his endeavor yielded no results. At home, the prime minister repeatedly tried to change the nature of the country’s pacifist constitution that bans Japan from deploying military abroad – again, to no avail.
Abe also stressed that his administration had created four million jobs while keeping the economy going.
Meanwhile, local media reported that he will continue to serve as prime minister until a new leader is chosen, thus avoiding the need to appoint an acting premier. Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is reportedly set to arrange a leadership election next Thursday.
Abe, 65, is the longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history, having assumed office in 2012. A career LDP politician, he is the grandson of Nobusuke Kishi, who himself was prime minister of Japan from 1957 to 1960.
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