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TOKYO (AFP) – Japan’s Emperor Akihito has no plans to step down, the imperial household has insisted, denying reports the 82-year-old wants to abdicate, in what would be an extraordinary move for a more-than 2,600-year-old royal line.
The country’s establishment was been thrown into tumult after respected public broadcaster NHK – citing palace sources – said Emperor Akihito wanted to pass the throne to his son.
Any such abdication – the first in 200 years – would be a huge shock to a country where the revered royal family symbolizes stability and continuity.
Observers say NHK and Kyodo News, which separately carried a similar report, would be extremely careful before committing on such an explosive story, and would certainly have strong sourcing.
But the Imperial Household Agency, the government body that runs royal affairs, offered a categorical denial. “It is absolutely not true,” Vice Grand Steward Shinichiro Yamamoto told reporters late on Wednesday.
The Emperor “has long refrained from discussing systematic issues out of consideration for His Majesty’s constitutional position”, he told reporters.