Japanese princess to become a mother

Japan's Princess Kiko, the wife of the emperor's second eldest son, is pregnant, national broadcaster NHK reported Tuesday, raising the possibility that the country's royal family could produce its first male heir in 40 years.

The Imperial Household Agency refused to immediately comment, but the report triggered a round of applause by lawmakers at a televised Parliamentary committee meeting attended by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Kiko, the wife of Prince Akishino, has two daughters. Crown Prince Naruhito, first in line to the throne after his father Emperor Akihito, has had a lone daughter with his wife, Crown Princess Masako.

The lack of a male heir to succeed Naruhito has prompted the government to consider changing a 1947 law so that his 4-year-old daughter, Aiko, could one day take the throne. The law at present allows only sons of an emperor to reign, reports the AP.

I.L.