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People's Daily Online

Japanese emperor hints at possible abdication

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 14:44, August 08, 2016

Japanese Emperor Akihito delivered a video message to the public Monday afternoon, hinting at his wish to abdicate though not directly referring to it.

In his 10-minute video message, broadcast at 3 p.m. on Monday, the 82-year-old emperor expressed worries that his old age and deteriorating physical strength may hinder him from fully carrying out his duties.

"When I consider that my fitness level is gradually declining, I am worried that it may become difficult for me to carry out my duties as the symbol of the state with my whole being as I have done until now," the emperor said.

He also said it could be hard to cope with the situation just by cutting duties. "In coping with the aging of the Emperor, I think it is not possible to continue reducing perpetually the Emperor's acts in matters of state and his duties as the symbol of the State," he said.

"When the Emperor has ill health and his condition becomes serious, I am concerned that, as we have seen in the past, society comes to a standstill and people's lives are impacted in various ways," said the emperor, who underwent surgery in 2003 to remove prostate cancer and had heart bypass surgery in 2012.

Referring to demise of an emperor, he said, "The practice in the Imperial Family has been that the death of the Emperor called for events of heavy mourning, continuing every day for two months, followed by funeral events which continue for one year."

"These various events occur simultaneously with events related to the new era, placing a very heavy strain on those involved in the events, in particular, the family left behind," he said.

"It occurs to me from time to time to wonder whether it is possible to prevent such a situation," said the emperor.

The 10-minute video message came amid growing speculation on the emperor's abdication after local media reported last month that the 82-year-old emperor wishes to hand over the throne to his 56-year-old son Crown Prince Naruhito.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe released comments following the emperor's message, saying that he will take into serious consideration the emperor's condition concerning his advanced age and official duties, and see what could be done.

"On the nature of the emperor's official duties, in view of his age and the state of the burden his duties place upon him, I think we must give thought to the strain on the emperor and thoroughly consider what we can do," Abe said.

"While, being in the position of the Emperor, I must refrain from making any specific comments on the existing Imperial system, I would like to tell you what I, as an individual, have been thinking about," said the emperor.

According to local media, if the emperor is to abdicate, the Imperial House Law might need revision, as the law, enacted in 1947 to rule for imperial affairs, does not include any provision for a reigning emperor to abdicate.

The process of revising the law, involving deliberations by an expert panel to the government, might require years, said earlier reports.

Japan's constitution stipulates that the emperor shall not have powers related to government. If the emperor expresses publicly that he wants to abdicate, such remarks could be taken as political, said local media.

The emperor's statement is expected to stimulate debate on necessary legal changes to enable him to hand over the throne to the crown prince, said Kyodo News.

According to a nationwide survey by Kyodo News earlier this month, 85.7 percent of the 1,008 respondents said abdication should be legalized as an option for the emperor and his successors by revising the Imperial House Law.

This is the emperor's second video message, following the first released after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan.

Emperor Akihito was enthroned at the age of 55 upon the death of his 87-year-old father Emperor Hirohito in 1989.



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