Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe announced on Friday that he would resign for health reasons, marking the end of his tenure as Japan’s longest-serving leader.
Abe was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis as a teenager, and first stepped down one year into his first term in 2006 because of complications from the chronic illness. However, Abe returned to politics and was reelected in 2012, and has implemented a series of economic reforms combining fiscal stimulus and monetary easing dubbed “Abenomics.”
Abe attempted to steer Japan in a more nationalistic direction, revitalizing the country’s military and calling to rewrite the country’s U.S.-drafted, pacifist constitution. Amending the constitution received little popular support in Japan, and Abe lamented that he would have to leave office before finishing his work.
“It is gut wrenching to have to leave my job before accomplishing my goals,” Abe said.
The prime minister will formally step down on Monday. While Abe’s economic reforms lifted the country out of a recession, the economy has now been battered by the coronavirus pandemic, which among other events caused the cancelation of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
The resignation also comes at a time of increased military tensions between Japan and China. An island archipelago stretching from mainland Japan through the East China Sea has become a major flashpoint between the two countries, with Chinese aircraft and submarines repeatedly entering Japanese territory.