US President Donald Trump on Friday paid his "highest respect" to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and voiced concern over his "great friend" resigning for health reasons.
"I want to pay my highest respect to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a very great friend of mine," Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One as he returned from a campaign rally in New Hampshire.
"We've had a great relationship and I just feel very badly about it, because it must be very severe for him to leave."
Abe, 65, who has been holding Japan's top post in a record-setting time, announced he was stepping down Friday, following resignation rumors triggered by two recent surprise hospital visits for unspecified medical checks.
In recent days, senior government officials had suggested he would serve out the rest of his remaining year in office.
A year into his first term in 2007, Abe had stepped down over health problems. He was then diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, which he said upon return to office in 2012 was under control with the help of new medication.