Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Friday he will resign over health problems, in a bombshell development that kicks off a leadership contest in the world's third-largest economy.
"I have decided to step down from the post of the prime minister," he told a press conference, saying he was suffering from a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis that ended his first term in office.
"It is gut wrenching to have to leave my job before accomplishing my goals," added Abe.
The national broadcaster NHK had reported that Abe would resign earlier on Friday, saying that he wanted to avoid causing problems to government due to a worsening of his chronic health condition.
Speculation about Abe's health and tenure had risen after he made two visits to a hospital recently. He has battled the chronic disease ulcerative colitis for years.