• Kyodo

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Crown Prince Akishino, the younger brother of Emperor Naruhito, has said he "approves" of his daughter Princess Mako marrying her university boyfriend, Kei Komuro, but reiterated that Komuro's mother must first solve an ongoing financial dispute.

"I mean, I approve of them getting married. The Constitution says marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes. If that is what they really want, then I think that is something I need to respect as a parent," the crown prince told a news conference in Tokyo held ahead of his 55th birthday on Monday.

In a statement issued earlier this month, Princess Mako, 29, expressed strong resolve to go ahead with her marriage, which was originally scheduled in 2018 but pushed back following reports of a dispute between Komuro's mother and her former fiance over money, including educational expenses for her son that the man shouldered.

At the time, the Imperial Household Agency quoted the crown prince and his wife, Crown Princess Kiko, as saying they "respect" the couple's feelings.

His latest comments came as the prince was responding to reporters who asked him at the news conference to elaborate on what he meant.

However, he also said no schedule has been set for his daughter's wedding, maintaining his view that the Komuros must resolve the outstanding money issue.

"In order for many people to be convinced and celebrate (the marriage), I have said it is important for the issue to be dealt with," said the crown prince, who is first in line to the chrysanthemum throne.

"From my point of view, I think they are not in a situation where many people are convinced and pleased (about their marriage)," he said, adding that he believes Princess Mako is also aware that her wedding plan has not gained sufficient public support.

He suggested that the Komuros have tried to resolve the issue to some extent, but added, "One thing I can say for certain is that even if you take some measures to address the issue, it is necessary for (the efforts) to be visible."

In a 2018 news conference held ahead of his birthday, the crown prince said, "If (their marriage) cannot be celebrated by many people, we cannot hold" a betrothal ceremony, known as Nosai no Gi.

Since August 2018, Komuro has been studying at Fordham University's law school in New York with a plan to take the bar exam in the United States after finishing his studies at the university next year.

Princess Mako and Komuro, 29, announced their plan to get engaged in September 2017. The agency said their wedding would take place in November 2018, but in February that year it announced that their marriage would be put off until 2020.

While the crown prince said in the latest news conference that he respects his daughter's wishes, referring to the constitutional right of couples to marry, he said that a marriage and an engagement are two different things. The crown prince also urged the couple to offer a public explanation of developments regarding their marriage when plans to tie the knot are set.

In a statement earlier this month, Princess Mako said the couple considers marriage to be a "necessary choice" for them, but added that they "acknowledge that some people are negative" about it.

Under Japanese law, female members of the imperial family must abandon their royal status upon marriage to a commoner. They usually receive a lump sum payment from the state to maintain the dignity of their position after leaving the imperial household.

Crown Prince Akishino was formally declared first in line to the throne in a traditional ceremony held on Nov. 8, following a seven-month postponement due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

He said he was "relieved" that the event had taken place, concluding a series of imperial succession rituals held since his elder brother, Emperor Naruhito, 60, ascended to the throne in May last year following the abdication of their 86-year-old father, Emperor Emeritus Akihito — the first Japanese monarch to step down in over 200 years.

During the global health crisis, the crown prince has been performing his duties online and has received virtual briefings from experts and others on the virus. He said he has been spending more time at home with his wife and three children — Princess Mako, Princess Kako, 25, and Prince Hisahito, 14.

Asked for his opinion about the imperial family's role in these testing times, he said, "It is to understand as much as possible about people who are in very difficult situations right now as well as their supporters, and sympathize with them."

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