On Friday, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said that Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to resign. The report added that the long-serving leader wanted to avoid causing problems for the government due to the worsening of a chronic health condition.
Abe has battled the disease ulcerative colitis for years and two recent hospital visits within a week fanned questions on whether he could stay in the job until the end of his term as ruling party leader, and hence, premier, in September 2021.
The conservative member of parliament returned as prime minister for a rare second term in December 2012, pledging to revive growth with his "Abenomics" mix of hyper-easy monetary policy, fiscal spending and reforms.
On Monday, he surpassed a record for longest consecutive tenure as a premier set by his great-uncle Eisaku Sato half a century ago.
The unexpected news sent stocks on the Tokyo stock market plunging more than two percent, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 index reversing earlier gains.
In 2007, Abe had abruptly resigned just one year into his first term, in 2007, over health problems. He was subsequently diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, which he said upon return to office in 2012 was under control with the help of new medication.