TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito pledged Tuesday to devote himself to the role of emperor, like his father, when he assumes the Chrysanthemum Throne.
"I will devote myself body and soul to every single duty," Naruhito said.
Japan's parliament passed a special law last Friday allowing current Emperor Akihito to abdicate within three years.
Last August, Akihito indirectly expressed his wish to abdicate, saying his age and health might start limiting his ability to fulfill his duties.
No specific dates have been announced, but officials are reportedly eyeing an abdication at the end of 2018, when Akihito turns 85 and his reign is in its 30th year. Akihito would be the first emperor to abdicate in 200 years.
Naruhito said he understands and respects his father's feelings.
"While serving many years as a symbol of the people, the emperor has tackled his tasks extremely seriously, taking every one of them close to heart and sincerely seeking out how his ideal role should be," Naruhito said.
Naruhito, 57, the emperor's eldest son and first in line to the throne, made the comments to a group of journalists ahead of a trip to Denmark marking 150 years of diplomatic ties.
Akihito is the first emperor to ascend to the throne with his role defined as the symbol of the people under Japan's post-World War II pacifist Constitution. His father, Hirohito, was worshipped as a living god and was the symbol of Japan's plans to colonize Asia until he renounced his divinity after Japan's defeat.
Akihito has attempted to soothe some of the old wounds from the war and has traveled to areas that once were torn by Japan's aggression. He has repeatedly said he fully respects his constitutional status as a symbol, and has brought the once-cloistered imperial family closer to the people.
Naruhito said he would follow his father's example.
He said foreign visits are excellent opportunities to foster mutual understanding and friendship and are one of most important roles of the royal family. His father and mother, Empress Michiko, have been mindful of the history and relations between Japan and the countries they visited and thought seriously about how they could promote friendship, he added.
"I have observed how the emperor and the empress have acted," Naruhito said. "I will respect their feelings and sincerely work on foreign trips in the future."
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