[JURIST] Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi [official profile; BBC profile] has backed off his pledge to push through legislation [JURIST report] that would allow women to succeed to the royal throne for the first time since the 1700's. The bill - first proposed because not a single male has been born in the royal family for over 40 years - was supported vigorously by Koizumi until he told a reporter that he wants to "proceed cautiously" to avoid making the issue a "political tool."
Koizumi's change of heart comes one day after the announcement that Princess Kiko Akishino [Wikipedia backgrounder] is pregnant, which has raised hopes that a male will finally be born into the royal family. Opinion polls have shown a majority of Japanese support the proposed change to the 1947 Imperial Household Law [text], but some conservative politicians have led public protests in opposition [JURIST report] to the proposal. BBC News has more.