John Bolton Says Japan's Abe Shinzo Resignation 'a Great Loss' to U.S.

World leaders and diplomats expressed regret Friday at the resignation of long-time Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, who announced his resignation over the return of a chronic medical condition.

Abe held a press conference Friday confirming his decision to step down, following earlier reports in the Japanese media that he was planning to leave office and had already informed his Liberal Democratic Party colleagues of his decision.

Abe said his "heartbreaking" decision was due to the return of his ulcerative colitis—an inflammatory bowel condition that forced him to step down as prime minister in 2007 after only a year in office. The 65 year old had managed the condition with new drugs since taking office again in 2012, but said Friday the condition had returned and left him fatigued.

Abe stands as one of the most influential post-war Japanese politicians, and his long stint at the helm stands in contrast to his predecessors, few of whom retained the post for more than two years. He has become synonymous with Japan on the world stage and been a proponent of more assertive foreign policy while expanding the national military.

Among those paying tribute to his legacy was former national security adviser John Bolton; a neoconservative hawk who has long advocated for more aggressive regional U.S. policy military—including preemptive strikes on North Korea.

Abe's departure, Bolton said, is "a great loss to Japan and the United States." He added: "He is a first-class world leader and one of America's staunchest allies. All best wishes!"

Elsewhere, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Abe had "achieved great things as PM of Japan—for his country and the world...Thank you for all your years of service and I wish you good health."

Russia—still locked in a territorial dispute with Japan—also praised Abe's legacy. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said it was "a great pity that Shinzo Abe decided to resign." Peskov added: "We hope his successor will equally follow the path of further development of Russian-Japanese relations... [He made] invaluable contribution to the development of bilateral relations."

European Council President Charles Michel said Abe had "helped make Japan a pillar of today's multilateral system." The former Belgian prime minister said he wished Abe "good health and hope to meet you again soon, my friend."

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Abe's "leadership, wisdom, generosity and vision have championed the cause of peace, freedom and prosperity in our region and the world more broadly." He added: "Abe has given his all to the service of his country and left a legacy for Japan and the world that he can be truly proud of."

Attention will now turn to Abe's successor, who will have until October 2021 to cement their administration before Japanese voters head to the polls. Possible candidates include Deputy Prime Minister Aso Taro, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide, former Defense Minister Ishiba Shigeru, and former Foreign Minister Kishida Fumio.

Abe told reporters Friday he expected a fairly quick process to choose the next prime minister. "I don't think it will be a long period, but I believe there will be enough time to choose the best person," he said.

Japan, Abe Shinzo, John Bolton, resignation, US
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference at the prime minister's official residence on August 28, 2020 in Tokyo. Franck Robichon - Pool/Getty Images/Getty