Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced today he would resign after almost 15 months in office amid plunging approval ratings over his government's handling of the tsunami disaster and nuclear crisis. In a nationally televised speech, Kan said he was stepping down as chief of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and would officially quit as prime minister after the ruling party votes Monday to pick a new leader—the country's sixth prime minister in five years.
Former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, a 49-year-old expert in defense and a China hawk, is viewed as the front-runner to replace Kan. Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Trade Minister Banri Kaieda are also viewed as contenders. The decision was widely expected because in June, Kan had promised to quit once lawmakers passed three key pieces of legislation, the final two of which cleared the parliament earlier today. Kan managed to survive only a few months longer than the four previous prime ministers, who each lasted a year or less. (Read more Japan stories.)