Japanese PM Hospitalized for Exhaustion

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been hospitalized with "extreme exhaustion," a day after announcing his intention to resign. The announcement was made as members Mr. Abe's party lined up to run for his job. VOA's Naomi Martig reports from Hong Kong

Official word of Mr. Abe's condition came Thursday from Dr. Toshifumi Hibi of Tokyo's Keio Hospital.

Hibi told reporters the prime minister is suffering from extreme psychological and physical exhaustion, and will be hospitalized for three to four days.

The doctor says Mr. Abe's body has weakened and his stomach and intestinal functions are deteriorating.

The hospitalization comes as members of Mr. Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party positioned themselves to run for his post. The LDP is to hold an election on September 23, and the winner will become prime minister.

Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga announced his candidacy on Thursday. Yasuo Fukuda, former chief cabinet secretary, is also expected to run, as is Taro Aso, the LDP secretary-general and former foreign minister, who is considered the leading candidate.

Jeff Kingston is director of Asian Studies at Temple University in Japan. He says that if Aso becomes Japan's next leader, the result may not be popular with Japan's neighbor, China.

"If he does get the job, this is going to raise issues about reconciliation issues with China, " noted Kingston, "because he is tied to the Taiwan Lobby and he's made a number of public comments, derogatory comments, about China, so from Beijing's perspective, he's a bit of a nightmare scenario."

Mr. Abe was praised for taking steps to improve relations with China and South Korea immediately after taking office one year ago. Japan's relations with those two countries had deteriorated considerably during the tenure of Mr. Abe's predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi.

Kingston says that whoever replaces Mr. Abe will face an uphill battle on several issues, including winning support to extend Japan's supporting role for anti-terrorism activities in Afghanistan.

Japan's navy has had vessels in the Indian Ocean since 2001, refueling the warships of the United States and other countries fighting Islamic insurgents in Afghanistan.

The law enabling the refueling mission is set to expire November first, and Japan's main opposition party, the Democratic Party, is strongly opposed to extending it.