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February, 24, 2017

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Japan plans to have new emperor in 2019: media

TOKYO -- Japan is planning for Emperor Akihito to retire and be replaced by his eldest son on January 1, 2019, reports said Wednesday, as the country works on a legal framework for its first abdication in 200 years.

Akihito, 83, expressed a desire in August to abdicate after nearly three decades on the Chrysanthemum Throne, citing his advancing age and weakening health.

Major national newspapers — the Yomiuri, Asahi, Mainichi and Nikkei — cited unnamed sources as saying Crown Prince Naruhito, 56, would succeed his father on New Year's Day 2019.

After Akihito's announcement last year, the government established a panel of experts to help decide how best to proceed as the issue is fraught with historical and legal challenges.

The six-member panel has discussed various legal options, with speculation rampant it will propose parliament pass a special one-time law to allow Akihito to step down.

The leading opposition Democratic Party, however, opposes a one-time change, arguing that would not ensure stable future successions. It has advocated a revision to the permanent law that governs the imperial family.

The panel is expected to compile a summary of its views on the issue in January.

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