February 7, 2006

Japan’s Princess Kiko expecting 3rd child-NHK

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Princess Kiko, wife of the
emperor's younger son, is pregnant, media said on Tuesday as
the nation debates whether women should be allowed to inherit
the imperial throne.

Public broadcaster NHK said the Imperial Household Agency
was set to announce the pregnancy, but agency officials said
there were no such plans and they could not confirm it.

The princess's husband is Prince Akishino, the second son
of Emperor Akihito. Her pregnancy, if confirmed, is likely to
affect a debate on changing the succession law, because
opponents of any change will want to wait and see if the baby
is a boy.

No boys have been born into the imperial family since 1965,
and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has said he wants to
revise the law -- which allows only males descended from
emperors to become sovereign -- in the current session of

Those opposed to changing the longstanding tradition insist
on maintaining the male line, some even promoting the idea of
reviving the princely houses abolished after World War Two in
an attempt to find a male heir.

Some officials at the Imperial Household Agency have said
in the past that they were pinning their hopes on Kiko and
Akishino having a boy, who would be third in line to inherit
the Chrysanthemum throne after his father and Crown Prince

Both of Kiko's two children are daughters. Kyodo news
agency said she would likely give birth in September or

Recently, some members of Koizumi's cabinet have questioned
his plans, arguing that there was no rush to change the law.

If the succession bill were to be passed, 4-year-old
Princess Aiko, the daughter Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako,
would eventually become Japan's first reigning empress since
the 18th century.

Japan has had eight reigning empresses, but traditionalists
stress that none of the female rulers passed on the throne to
children who were not heirs of an emperor.

The reports of the pregnancy even affected the stock
market, boosting share prices of makers of baby care goods
Pigeon Corp., which rose 5.7 percent to 1,777 yen, and Combi
Corp., which climbed 9 percent to 850 yen.