Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 65, announced Friday that he will resign because health reasons, ending his nearly eight years in office.
Abe, who recently visited the hospital on two occasions, said Friday evening local time that he was resigning due to a relapse of a bowel condition, which previously prompted him to resign during his first term in office back in 2007, reports The New York Times.
Yoshihide Suga, the prime minister’s chief cabinet secretary, had recently suggested Abe didn’t have any intentions of leaving office, which he had held for multiple terms since 2012.
“The prime minister himself has said he would like to work hard again from now on, and I’m seeing him every day,” said Suga, who also remarked at the time that the prime minister’s health “remains unchanged,” reports the Times.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Abe recently “spent 7½ hours at a Tokyo hospital on Aug. 17 for what he said were tests,” and returned “for nearly four hours on Aug. 24, saying he was getting a report on the test results. He didn’t say what the tests showed.”
In a statement after his recent hospital visit but before his resignation, Abe said that he has “fully devoted myself every day to realizing the pledges I have made to the people,” reports Kyodo News.
Abe, who just became the longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history, previously served in the position back in 2006 and 2007. He abruptly resigned abruptly about a year later, in part, because of a flare-up of ulcerative colitis, according to The New York Times.
The Associated Press reports that Abe was diagnosed with the condition in his teens, but had been able to control it with medical treatment.
Japan went through five different prime ministers in the interim years between Abe’s first resignation and his eventual reclaiming of the prime minister position in 2012.
According to AP, Abe prioritized a “nationalistic” agenda in his first term as prime minister, but when he returned to the office several years later, he shifted his focus to economic measures and improved a “security alliance” with the United States.
The New York Times reports that Abe “oversaw Japan’s recovery from a devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, restored a semblance of economic health,” in addition to also developing a professional relationship with President Donald Trump.
Back in May, the Japanese government announced that Abe and Trump had spoken on the phone for a little less than an hour about coronavirus measures and treatments in their respective countries, and “agreed to continue their tight cooperation,” according to Reuters.
“Two leaders exchanged views on each country’s COVID-19 situation, steps to prevent further spread of the virus, development of medicine and vaccines and measures for reopening the economies,” said Suga at the time.