Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo resigned from his position due to an ongoing battle with ulcerative colitis, Japan’s national broadcaster NHK reported on Friday.
Reports surfaced early Friday local U.S. time that Abe would resign due to unspecified health problems.
“Sources close to the Japanese Prime Minister say he plans to step down to deal with a health problem,” NHK wrote.
Abe, 65, later held a press conference where he explained his decision, saying he was “no longer in a condition to confidently respond to the mandate given him by the public.”
“I began experiencing physical problems from mid-July, and I was in a situation of wearing down my physical condition,” Abe said.
Speculation over the prime minister’s health has run rampant for the past two weeks because of repeated hospital stays.
“[H]e underwent an examination at Tokyo’s Keio University Hospital on August 14 and then returned for a followup exam on Monday [August 24],” the Japan Times reported.
In 2007, Abe was forced to step down as prime minister after serving only one year due to complications from inflammatory bowel disease. Abe returned to the post in 2012; he has served as prime minister for nearly eight years since then, making him Japan’s longest-serving leader.
Abe’s term as president of Japan’s main ruling Liberal Democratic Party “would have run out in September next year,” according to NHK.
Abe is the longest-serving prime minister in the history of modern Japan. He will remain prime minister until his party chooses a new leader.