Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set to resign for health reasons: Local reports

Abe has been in office since 2012.
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Behrouz Mehri/AFP via Getty Images

(ABC News) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will step down as the country’s leader on Friday due to chronic health issues, according to multiple local media reports.

Public broadcaster NHK said Abe would make the announcement at 17:00 local time, when he was expected to deliver an update on the country’s handling of the coronavirus.

The Prime Minister’s Office did not immediately confirm the reports. Abe was expected to meet with top ruling officials at the party headquarters on Friday.

The 65-year-old prime minister has suffered from the disease ulcerative colitis, a chronic condition impacting the large intestine.

Abe had visited a hospital twice over the past weeks, fueling speculation that his days in office could be numbered.

Abe visited Keio University Hospital for more than seven hours on Monday morning to undergo tests, although it’s not clear what the results were.

“I received the results last week and then underwent additional tests. I’ll continue to do my best in my work and take all measures to manage my physical condition,” Abe said, speaking to reporters at his official residence.

Abe had said he was making the most of the summer period to improve health.

If Abe were to become incapacitated, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Taro Aso would temporarily take over.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga dismissed speculation over Abe’s health earlier this week, saying, “I see him every day. There is no change in his condition.”

Abe’s term expires at the end of September 2021, after the Summer Olympics, which were postponed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Abe became Japan’s longest continuously serving leader on Monday, having stepped into the role in 2012.

It’s not the first time Abe’s health has forced him to step down. In 2007 Abe’s condition forced him to resign as prime minister, after just one year in the role.

Five years later, he led the conservative Liberal Democratic Party back to power.

Abe has staunchly pursued a nationalist agenda. He is known for stimulating the country’s economy with his aggressive “Abenomics” policy and has ramped up Japan’s military might, despite the restrictions of a pacifist post-World War Two ban.

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