Politicians happy to put off royal debate

by Reiji Yoshida and Masami Ito

ensuring

News photo
An advisory panel to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi recommended in its final report in November that the Imperial House Law be revised to allow reigning empresses because no males had been born into the Imperial family for nearly 41 years, jeopardizing the centuries-old Imperial line.Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, the front-runner to become the next prime minister, said the government should not rush to change the succession rule."I think cautious and calm discussion should be promoted because – a stable Imperial succession is an issue of extremely grave importance,” he said.

Yukio Hatoyama, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party, said it is now a time for celebration, not debate.

“I only pray that Princess Kiko will steadily recover and the prince will grow up healthy,” Hatoyama said.

Former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone said the issue of revising the law has “disappeared” for now, adding that the birth of a boy means there is no need to revise the Imperial House Law for the time being.

The prime minister’s advisory panel concluded that the birth of one or two boys would not be enough to ensure a stable succession over the long run, given the dearth of children in the Imperial family and the abolition of the prewar concubine system.

Abe declined to comment on whether the law should be changed to solidify the succession, saying only that “cautious” and “calm” discussion is needed.

He is thought to support the tradition of male-only succession. Although he has not taken a public position on the issue, he has said the panel’s recommendations are nonbinding and that subsequent prime ministers need not follow them.

Abe said Wednesday his opinion on the force of the panel’s recommendations had not changed.

The government had drawn up a bill to revise the Imperial House Law to change the male-only succession rule.

Crown Princess Masako, 42, has reportedly suffered from stress over the pressure to bear a son. Her only child is Princess Aiko, 4.

Koizumi shelved the bill after the Imperial Household Agency announced Princess Kiko’s pregnancy in February.

Tsutomu Takebe, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, said he was ecstatic a boy had been born.

“It is very important that the succession of the Imperial family be maintained systematically,” Takebe said.

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