• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has unexpectedly announced his resignation, plans to hold phone talks with U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday, Japanese and U.S. government sources said Saturday.

Abe, who said Friday he will step down from the post he has held since 2012, is expected to tell Trump he had to resign before the end of his term to undergo prolonged treatment for his ulcerative colitis, a chronic illness.

The sudden resignation announcement came just a few days after Abe achieved the longest uninterrupted stint as prime minister in Japanese history. Since the announcement, the race to find Abe’s successor has been intensifying.

During their phone conversation, Abe is expected to ask Trump, with whom he has established a close relationship, for the United States to continue its strong bilateral cooperation with Japan under his successor, according to the sources.

Abe may also discuss Japan’s missile defense policy after his government in June scrapped a plan to deploy a U.S. missile defense system known as Aegis Ashore, the sources said.

Abe and Trump held phone talks in May when they agreed to cooperate over their countries’ coronavirus response and the development of treatment drugs and vaccines.

During Friday’s news conference, Abe said he will remain in office until his replacement is selected. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party, led by Abe, is considering holding its presidential election on or around Sept. 15, according to senior party lawmakers. The new LDP president is all but assured of becoming prime minister.

Abe’s health came under fresh scrutiny from repeated hospital visits made after he disappeared from public sight, refusing to hold a news conference for nearly 50 days through early August despite calls for him to explain the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic to the public.

The resignation was a flashback to 2007, when the illness forced Abe to resign only a year after becoming the nation’s youngest postwar prime minister at age 52.

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