Japan's Cabinet OKs bill to let Emperor Akihito abdicate

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's Cabinet has approved for legislative debate a bill to allow 83-year-old Emperor Akihito to abdicate.

The legislation endorsed Friday would allow Crown Prince Naruhito to succeed his father as emperor.

Akihito's desire to abdicate due to his age and health concerns has revived debate in Japan over the issue of imperial succession.

The shrinking royal family will lose another member with the coming marriage of Princess Mako, one of Akihito's granddaughters. When she marries she will become a commoner.

Chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga says he expected smooth passage of the abdication bill, which would only apply to Akihito.

Women cannot succeed to the Chrysanthemum Throne, but the government has avoided divisive issues such as whether women should be included in the current male-only succession.