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The BBC's Charles Scanlon in Japan
"Speculation about an heir soon gave way to concern"
 real 56k

David Powers, Japan analyst
"I think [changing the law] would be very popular"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 9 May, 2001, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Japan considers female succession
Japan's crown prince and princess
The princess is under huge pressure to produce a male heir
Japan's governing Liberal Democratic Party (LPD) is to consider changes to the law to allow abdication and female succession to the imperial throne.

At present only males can become emperor, but no boys have been born to the imperial family for more than 30 years.

The wife of the current heir, Crown Princess Masako, is now pregnant and the BBC Tokyo correspondent Charles Scanlon says, if she produces a girl, the calls for change are likely to become overwhelming.

Crown Prince Naruhito has been married to the 37-year-old Masako for eight years without producing an heir. She suffered a miscarriage in 1999 during a media frenzy sparked by her condition.

Newspapers say the dominant LPD is preparing to set up a panel to consider revising the law.

Japan's new prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, has spoken in favour of allowing female succession, but the chief cabinet spokesman said there were no immediate plans for an amendment and the issue needed to be discussed thoroughly.

The Chrysanthemum Throne has been occupied by female emperors in its long history, but they have been barred from the throne since the mid-19th century, when the emperor was restored to a central role in the country's political life.

LPD Secretary-General Taku Yamasaki - who will chair discussions - said it was a matter of "basic human rights" to implement the changes.

Mr Koizumi was quoted as saying: "I personally think an empress would be fine, but I want (the LPD) to study fully because this is a big issue."

According to Japanese tradition, the current emperor, 67-year-old Akihito, is Japan's 125th imperial sovereign in an unbroken line from Emperor Jimmu, who ascended the throne in about 660BC.

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See also:

09 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan's female emperors
16 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japanese princess 'may be pregnant'
16 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan's Dowager Empress dies
12 Nov 99 | Asia-Pacific
Japan celebrates imperial anniversary
31 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
Japanese princess suffers miscarriage
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