Japanese premier quits after scandals, dispute over support for U.S. forces in Afghanistan
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Japanese premier quits after troubled first year
TOKYO -- Weakened by scandal and failure at the ballot box, Japan's prime minister announced Wednesday that he was quitting after only a year in office, bowing out amid a political brawl over the country's aid to U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. Shinzo Abe surprised members of his party and even his own Cabinet by deciding to resign only days after he pledged to stake his government on the success of legislation to extend Japan's naval mission in the Indian Ocean.The nationalist Abe, whose government was severely damaged by a string of scandals and his party's loss of control of the upper house of parliament in July elections, said someone more politically viable should shepherd the Afghan measure that the opposition is trying to scuttle. Abe, at 52 the country's youngest postwar prime minister, listed the election defeat and an opposition leader's refusal to meet with him earlier in the day as signs that he could no longer lead. Chief Cabinet Secretary Kaoru Yosano said health concerns also contributed to Abe's decision, but refused to provide details.