Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has apologized to the Japanese public for his abrupt resignation earlier this month. As VOA's Heda Bayron reports from our Asia News Center in Hong Kong, the Liberal Democratic Party's new leader, Yasuo Fukuda, prepares to fill the power vacuum left by Mr. Abe.

Shinzo Abe made his first public appearance since he checked into a hospital a day after announcing his resignation on September 12.

Mr. Abe apologized to the Japanese nation for the bad timing of his resignation, which left a power vacuum.

Mr. Abe, who appeared with two doctors beside him, said his health had deteriorated during the past month. He has been suffering from gastro-intestinal problems and Mr. Abe said he had reached a physical limit that made him unable to continue as prime minister.

He resigned less than two months after his Liberal Democratic Party suffered a massive election defeat in July. The opposition seized control of the upper house of Parliament.

Mr. Abe and his cabinet were criticized for their lack of experience, and a series of financial scandals involving cabinet ministers hurt his popularity ratings.

New LDP leader Yasuo Fukuda appointed allies to key party posts before his official appointment as prime minister on Tuesday.

The 71-year-old Fukuda is the son of a former prime minister. He served as chief cabinet secretary for Mr. Abe's predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi.

After his selection on Sunday, Fukuda acknowledged that the party is facing major difficulties and promised to bring back the people's trust in the long dominant LDP.

He also pledged to improve ties with Asia and to extend a Japanese naval mission in support of forces in Afghanistan.