Japan’s emperor hints at abdication, citing deteriorating health
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Japan’s emperor hints at abdication, citing deteriorating health

October 26, 2019

The head of the world’s oldest monarchy,
Japanese Emperor Akihito has hinted that he wants to abdicate because of age and ill health,
potentially ushering in the most significant change to Japan’s imperial system in the postwar
era. Kim Hyesung reports. In a rare televised address, Japan’s 125th
Emperor Akihito said if his health worsens he may not be able to fulfill 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 has had health problems in recent
years. He underwent a heart surgery operation in
2012 and was also hospitalized for prostate cancer. In his message, Akihito stopped short of saying
directly that he wanted to abdicate, which could be interpreted as interfering in politics
in Japan. –
“In Japan, an emperor is required to serve until death by law. For Akihito to step down, the Japanese parliament
would have to change the law.” And following the speech, Prime Minister Shinzo
Abe said he took the emperor’s words “seriously,” and that the government will discuss the legal
changes required for that to happen. According to Japanese media, this would require
a parliamentary discussion and making legal changes that could take around two to three
years. During his 28-year reign, Akihito has strived
to mend ties with countries hurt by Japanese wartime aggression. In 2015, the Emperor expressed “deep remorse”
over Japan’s role in World War Two, which stands in stark contrast with the Abe Administration’s
attempts to reinterpret the Pacifist Treaty and rearm Japan. Beloved by the Japanese public, most people
seem to support the emperor’s desire to step down. A Kyodo News poll showed last week that nearly
86 percent of the public would accept an abdication. If the emperor does step down, it would make
him the first Japanese monarch in 200 years to do so. Kim Hyesung, Arirang News.

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