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Japan emperor to step down?

Japan’s 82-year-old Emperor Akihito on Monday indicated his readiness to abdicate, voicing concern in a rare video message to the public that he could one day become unable to fulfill his role as the symbol of the state because of his age.

The video message was recorded at the Imperial Palace on Sunday, a few weeks after Public broadcaster NHK reported that Akihito wanted to step down in a few years – a move that would be unprecedented in modern Japan.

“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 in the video message.

The emperor said he has come to think about how his future course should be set for the sake of the nation, people, and the imperial family, in the event of his becoming unable to fully carry out his duties after undergoing surgery and starting to feel a decline in physical strength because of his age.

Since Japan’s imperial law does not envisage an abdication by a reigning emperor, a revision to the law or special legislation would be required to make it happen.

In his message, Emperor Akihito did not explicitly refer to abdication, as that would require political and legal procedures. The Constitution prohibits the emperor’s political engagement.

The statement was issued to convey his thoughts as an “individual,” the emperor said, adding that he is refraining from touching on the current imperial system specifically because of his position as emperor. (AFP)