Sat, Feb 25, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Japan confirms princess is pregnant

AGENCIES , TOKYO

Japan yesterday formally announced that the wife of Emperor Akihito's second son is pregnant with her third child, although the country will remain in suspense until September over whether it will have another male heir to the throne.

"The royal couple doesn't want to know about [the fetus' sex] at all until the birth," doctor Masao Nakabayashi told a news conference.

The pregnancy of Princess Kiko, the 39-year-old wife of the emperor's second son, was a dream come true for conservatives opposed to widely supported proposals to let a woman sit on the Chrysanthemum Throne.

Kiko is three months pregnant and in good health, the Imperial Household Agency said.

The agency also urged the media to exercise "good sense and restraint" in reporting about the princess, who will turn 40 on Sept. 11.

Initial news of the pregnancy, which came out earlier this month, has halted plans to revise a 1947 law to give women equal rights to inherit the throne, a change which has been seen by many experts as necessary to avoid a succession crisis.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi slammed the brakes on the imperial reforms after the pregnancy news.

Opinion polls have shown a majority of the public supports letting women sit on the throne and pass it on to their children, although many also feel there is no need to rush through the legal revisions now that Kiko is pregnant.

The Imperial Household Agency, which had previously said only that Kiko was "showing signs" of pregnancy, criticized the media for breaking the news before father-to-be Prince Akishino had been notified and at a time when there was a risk of miscarriage.

"Utterly unthinkable and inconsiderate coverage directed at one pregnant woman has continued daily since then, and it is truly regrettable that because of that Princess Kiko has suffered an unnecessary mental burden," the statement said.

"This will be her first experience of giving birth in her late 30s and she has many anxieties," it said.

Nakabayashi added: "She is older now. Women age about 10 years by going through a pregnancy."

Kiko, who has two daughters, aged 14 and 11, will refrain from official duties while pregnant, the agency said.

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