US President Donald Trump on Friday paid the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe his “highest respect” and expressed his concern about the resignation of his “great friend” for health reasons.
“I would like to pay my utmost respect to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a very good friend of mine,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One as he returned from a campaign rally in New Hampshire.
“We had a great relationship and I just feel very bad about it because it must be very difficult for him to leave.”
“He loves his country so much and for him to go I just can’t imagine what it is. He’s a great gentleman and that’s why I just pay my utmost respect,” added Trump.
Abe announced earlier that he would end his record-breaking tenure and start a leadership race in the world‘s third largest economy.
He said he was suffering from a recurrence of ulcerative colitis which forced him to drop out of an initial term and that he no longer felt able to continue as prime minister.
The two leaders met several times during the US president’s tenure, and staff welcomed the “unprecedented” relationship between Trump and his “golf buddy”.
A Japanese diplomat said last year the frequency of contact shows the “unprecedented level of close personal relationships” between the two.
Trump announced in September last year that the two allies had taken an important step towards signing a comprehensive new trade deal after a year of negotiations between the global economic powers.
Abe was forced to step down just a year after he was appointed the country’s youngest prime minister, but has been Japan’s longest-serving prime minister since then.
Speculation about his political future had intensified after two recent hospital visits for unspecified health checks, but the resignation came as a surprise nonetheless.
He was expected to remain in office until his term as LDP leader ended in September 2021.
As late as Friday morning, the government spokesman apparently dismissed concerns about Abe’s health and suggested that they continue.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)