TOKYO, Feb 24 (Reuters) Japan formally announced that the wife of Emperor Akihito's second son is pregnant with her third child, Kyodo news agency said raising hopes that a male heir to the Chrysanthemum throne may be born for the first time in four decades.
Princess Kiko is three months pregnant and in good health, Kyodo quoted a court official as saying. Kyodo also reported that the Imperial Household Agency, which handles royal affairs, said Kiko is expected to give birth in late September.
Initial news of the pregnancy, which came out earlier this month, has halted plans to revise the imperial succession law to give women equal rights to inherit the throne.
The Imperial Household Agency said at the time that the 39-year-old princess was ''showing signs'' of pregnancy.
A 1947 law limits the imperial succession to males who are descended from an emperor through the paternal line, but experts have said it is difficult to maintain the system given that a system of royal concubines no longer exists.
Opinion polls have shown that a majority of the public supports letting women ascend the throne and pass it on to their children, although many also feel there is no need to rush through the legal revisions now that Kiko is pregnant.
''We need to study this thoroughly without making it a political football,'' Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told reporters yesterday.
In a study meeting held by members of a ruling Liberal Democratic Party panel on Thursday, many participants said they were opposed to the proposed revisions, financial daily Nihon Keizai reported.
REUTERS RL RN0835