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Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 06:46 GMT
Japanese empress not on the cards
Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako
Japan is eagerly awaiting the royal birth
Japan has no plans to change the law to allow a female emperor, the policy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has said.

The issue is a hot topic in Japan as it awaits the birth of the first potential heir since 1965.

We are not yet in the stage of thinking about it

Taro Aso, LDP policy chief
Crown Princess Masako, 37, is expecting her first child later this month or early December, after eight years of marriage to 41-year-old Crown Prince Naruhito.

The pregnancy has sparked much debate over what would happen if the baby were a girl, since woman are legally banned from taking the throne.

If the princess has a boy he will be second in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne behind the crown prince.

Women barred

Taro Aso, chairman of the LDP's Policy Research Council said he was not being sexist, but even if the royal couple had a girl this time, they might have a son later.

Emperor Akihito
By tradition, Emperor Akihito will choose the new baby's name
"As we do not know which it will be ... we are not yet in the stage of thinking about it," he said on Wednesday.

"This would be an issue we should consider if we could tell no male is to be born.

"At this stage, we have no plans to touch the Imperial House Law."

The last royal male to be born was the crown prince's brother. He has two daughters.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has previously said he would welcome a change in the law to allow a woman ruler.

Female emperors 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.

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

Princess Masako suffered a miscarriage in 1999 during a media frenzy sparked by her condition.

See also:

10 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Ancient birth ritual for Japanese princess
09 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan considers female succession
09 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan's female emperors
15 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan crown princess pregnant
31 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
Japanese princess suffers miscarriage
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