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Princess Kiko, the wife of Prince Akishino, the second son of the Emperor and Empress, has given birth to a baby boy. We congratulate the couple, the Emperor and Empress and the entire Imperial family on the birth of the boy, who is third in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne after the Crown Prince and Prince Akishino under the Imperial Household Law.

We pray for the health of mother and baby. The boy is the first male born to the Imperial family since Prince Akishino’s birth in 1965. Princess Kiko is the first Imperial family member to have undergone a Caesarean section.

For people who cherish the current succession rule, which stipulates that all those who succeed to the Imperial throne must be male and have emperors on their fathers’ side, the birth of the boy is certainly good news. The fear that this practice might be endangered has been temporarily dispelled. But in the long run, concerns persist over a possible succession crisis. The history of the Imperial family shows that maintaining the male line only through children born to emperors and their wives has often been difficult. This is why a government panel, on Nov. 24, 2005, submitted a report to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, that proposed a two-point succession rule: (1) that females and their descendants be allowed to ascend the throne, and (2) that the emperor’s firstborn child, regardless of gender, be first in line to the throne.

The report’s immediate effect would have been a revision of the law, under which the 4-year-old Princess Aiko, the only child of the Crown Prince and Princess, would succeed her father, now first in line to the throne, and become the first female emperor since female Emperor Go-Sakuramachi, who reigned from 1762 to 1770. The revision process was put on hold after the Feb. 7 announcement of Princess Kiko’s pregnancy.

In view of the constitutional stipulation that “the Emperor shall be the symbol of the State” and of the fact that equality of the sexes is a constitutional principle that should govern Japanese society, the panel’s proposal should be revived in the near future.

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