Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should have been celebrating having this week become his country’s longest-serving leader. Instead, he announced his resignation yesterday, the reoccurrence of an intestinal disease that forced him to cut short an earlier term in office causing fatigue, which he said prevented him from capably carrying out his duties. His departure means that nationalist policies, including amending the pacifist constitution to enable a fully fledged defence force, a strategy that further soured ties with China and South Korea, will remain unfulfilled. It is to be hoped that whoever succeeds him in a vote of his Liberal Democratic Party next month adopts a foreign policy that is mindful of history and the need for strong ties with neighbours that ensure regional growth and stability. Shinzo Abe’s resignation: who might become Japan’s next PM? The longevity record was set on Monday, when Abe, 65, served his 2,799th consecutive day as prime minister. But rather than marking the day with ceremony, he went to hospital, furthering speculation about his health. His perceived mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic had already cast doubt on his tenure and with approval ratings at or near their lowest since a return to power in 2012, he was already widely seen as a lame-duck leader. In resigning, Abe said he was confident new coronavirus policies would work. He refused to be drawn on his legacy and lamented a failure to complete policies including changing the constitution and settling territorial disputes. He claimed success with his economic revitalisation strategy popularly known as Abenomics , but that, too, has failed to achieve its potential; the impact of Covid-19 has largely erased what had been achieved. Japan’s challenges when he took office, among them empowering women and the demographic difficulties posed by a fast-ageing population, remain far from resolved. Relations with China that showed promise of improvement following a meeting with President Xi Jinping in Beijing in 2018 amid the trade war with the United States have again become fraught. His efforts to improve ties have been swayed by pressure from US President Donald Trump’s administration and the American military alliance, increased Chinese activity around disputed islands and the coronavirus. Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe confirms resignation over health problems Subsidies are being given to help Japanese firms relocate supply chains from China, Beijing has been criticised for its national security law for Hong Kong and a much-anticipated visit to Japan by Xi this year has been suspended. Tokyo well knows the benefits of strengthening bilateral ties with Beijing, but worsening geopolitical and economic conditions make that challenging. Abe’s nationalist tendencies were always a cause for regional suspicion. But no matter what the difficulties, his successor has to strive to build regional trust and make every effort for a reset in relations.