Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a news conference on May 25, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan.
Kim Kyung-Hoon – Pool | Getty Images

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has confirmed that he will step down due to worsening health, bringing an end to his stint as the longest-serving premier of the world’s third-largest economy.

“I would like to send my apologies to the people of Japan,” Abe said during a televised press conference Friday.

Abe said he would fulfill his duties as prime minister until the next leader is appointed. His current term was not due to end until 2021.

He confirmed his intention to leave office after state broadcaster NHK reported that he was about to stand down earlier in the day. He has reportedly visited hospital twice in the last two weeks.

Abe suffers from a chronic inflammatory bowel disease. He had previously planned to step down as prime minister in 2007 following a flare-up but returned to the top job after his party registered a landslide election victory in 2012. 

Since resuming the office of prime minister, Abe has sought to revive Japan’s lackluster economy through a policy package dubbed Abenomics.

While the coronavirus pandemic has hammered economies globally, Japan was already reeling from a drop in consumer spending after it hiked the consumption tax rate in October. The country entered a technical recession after its economy shrank at an annualized rate of 3.4% in the January to March quarter.

Japan’s economy contracted at an annualized rate of 27.8% in the April to June quarter, marking its third quarter of declines. Reuters reported that plunge wiped out gains from Abenomics stimulus policies.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated shortly.

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