Nisei Week Queen Tori Nishinaka-Leon presents a bouquet of flowers to Japanese First Lady Akie Abe as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe applauds on May 1, 2015 at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. (JUN NAGATA/Rafu Shimpo)

TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Aug. 28 that he will resign due to illness, ending his nearly eight-year stint as Japan’s longest-serving leader.

“As I am no longer in a condition to respond confidently to the mandate of the people, I have decided I should not stay in the prime minister’s post,” Abe, 65, said in a nationally televised press conference.

He added, “I apologize to the people from the bottom of my heart for having to leave the job amid the coronavirus pandemic while many policies are still halfway toward realization.”

Abe, who suffers from ulcerative colitis, said that he will remain in office until the ruling party chooses a succesor and that he plans to continue his political career.

In August, he surpassed the record for longest-serving prime minister, previously held by Eisaku Sato (1964-1972).

Abe, who is president of the Liberal Democratic Party, has been in office since September 2012. He previously served as premier from October 2006 to September 2007, resigning due to illness.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Aug. 29, “The United States deeply values the enduring contributions of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in making the U.S.-Japan relationship the strongest it has ever been. He championed our alliance as a cornerstone of peace and security, and he advanced a free and open Indo-Pacific by working with the United States to build a network of partnerships across the region.

“We thank him for his many years of dedicated service and wish him a speedy and complete recovery.”

As Japanese American veterans of World War II look on, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife (obscured) bow before a wreath the Japanese leader placed at the Go For Broke Monument in Little Tokyo. Abe spent several minutes chatting with the former soldiers during the visit. (MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

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