Japan’s Emperor Akihito fears age could impact ability to rule

Updated 6:49 PM EDT, Mon August 8, 2016
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Story highlights

This is the third public address by an emperor since 1945

The 82-year-old has been in poor health recently

(CNN) —  

In a rare televised address, Japan’s Emperor Akihito said if his health worsens he fears he will not be able to fulfill his duties.

“I am already 80 years old, and fortunately I am now in good health,” said the monarch, who turns 83 in December.

“However, when I consider that my fitness level is gradually declining, I am worried that it may become difficult for me to carry out my duties as the symbol of the State with my whole being as I have done until now,” he said.

The announcement was considered by many to be a plea by the emperor to Japanese lawmakers, asking them to change the law so that he can step down.

Japan’s imperial household law requires the emperor serve in the position until death. If he becomes incapacitated, his successor can act as regent, according to the constitution.

Akihito said that a regent may be appointed, most likely his son Crown Prince Naruhito, to serve in his place if he is seriously ill or incapacitated.

But he stressed that the regent is not an emperor, and the emperor must serve until death.