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Ambassador Tien seeks Indian support for Taiwan participation in World Health Assembly

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, May 10: After Beijing’s blockage, Taiwan (Republic of China) has sought India’s support for its participation in the forthcoming World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland from May 20 to 28.

Addressing a press conference here, TECC Representative Ambassador Chung-kwang Tien expressed deep disappointment about WHO’s decision not to invite Taiwan to participate in the 72nd World Health Assembly under the political blockage from the People’s Republic of China.

Ambassador Tien said “Diseases know no border. Such barbarian conduct blatantly ignores the health and well-being of the 23 million people of Taiwan and will only harden hearts and evoke public resentment. More seriously, it will not only create a gap in the disease prevention network, but also sacrifice people’s health around the world.”

On behalf of the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan), the Ambassador said the Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in India (TECC) looks to the WHO and our friends in India to recognize the justice and importance of Taiwan's participation in the WHA.

Besides Ambassador Tien, those who addressed the press conference included Ronald Sapa Tlau, Member of Rajya Sabha and Committee on Health and Family Welfare of India; Vikrant Pachnanda, lawyer and advocate of Supreme Court of India; Dr Anamika, representatives from Taiwan Alumni Association, and Bruce Chi of the Taiwan Chamber of Commerce in New Delhi.

The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO) under the United Nations system. Taiwan was invited as an observer to the Assembly from 2009 to 2016, but not from 2017 to 2019, obviously out of political factors.

Taiwan, as a major contributor to world health, has invested over US $ 6 billion in international medical and humanitarian aids that have helped more than 80 countries during the past 23 years. Since the foundation of the Taiwan International Healthcare Training Center in 2002, Taiwan has provided suitable training to about 1,500 health professionals from around the world.

Taiwan not only offers international scholarships of in-service programs and higher education in the fields such as medicine, dentistry, health administration and public health for locals and foreigners, but also plays an active role in countering Chikungunya, Dengue Fever, Ebola, Zika and other commonly seen infectious diseases in the Asia-Pacific region, informed the Ambassador.

Ambassador Tien said Ronald Sapa Tlau, Member of Parliament, represents 1.33 crore Indians here.

In his address, Ronald Sapa Tlau reminded WHO that its Constitution says "the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition, and that the UN General Assembly resolution suggests that "as we embark on this great collective journey (toward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development), we pledge that no one will be left behind".

In this context, the Indian Member of Parliament said that the WHO must assure that every possible and available resource of all potential countries were not left behind to create a safer and healthier world community.

It may be mentioned that the US, Canada, the UK, the EU countries, Australia and Japan have voiced their support for Taiwan over the past weeks. The World Medical Association has said “the millions of Taiwanese people deserve that they be represented in the WHA. The Reporters Without Borders called that the journalists and media from Taiwan be authorized to cover events in the 72nd WHA and other UN activities, as the current circumstances do not allow them.

Ambassador Tien said “We are grateful that Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Murphy, UK Minister of State Mark Field, UK Junior Minister of the Health Department Jackie Doyle-Price, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, and the EU spokesperson publicly expressing their support for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the WHA in various occasions.

In addition, leaders of the Taiwan friendship groups from the European Parliament, United Kingdom, France, and Germany sent a joint letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus calling on the WHO to invite Taiwan to attend the WHA.

He said “We also highly appreciate that the World Medical Association, the European Medical Association and the Standing Committee of European Doctors also urge the WHO to extend an invitation to Taiwan for attending this year’s WHA.”

In conclusion, Ambassador Tien said that he firmly believed that “Virtue is not left to stand alone, he who practices it will have neighbors” and “A just cause attracts much support.”

EU, India natural partners: Ambassador Kozlowski

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, May 9: Europe Day, an annual celebration of peace and unity, was celebrated in India and throughout the EU with commemorative events taking place worldwide.

Speaking on the Europe Day celebrations here, European Union Ambassador Tomasz Kozlowski said the EU and India are natural partners and two would remain indispensable partners in the 21st century.

Ambassador Kozlowski said “We share a desire to work closely together to support a rule-based international order. We welcome the growing convergence of views on contemporary global issues.”

The EU Days celebrations were attended by Secretary (West) Gitesh Sarma and Ambassadors and prominent persons from EU and other nations.

Other prominent persons present included Ambassador Kenneth Juster (USA); Ambassador Milan Hovorka (Czech Republic); Ambassador Sujan R Chinoy, Director General of the Institute of Defence Studies & Analyses; Ms Claire Thuaudet (Deputy Chief of Mission, France); Umit Alpaslan Kilic (Deputy Chief of Mission, Turkey); Ambassador Chung-kwang Tien (Taiwan); Ambassador Klas Molin (Sweden); Ambassador Marten van den Berg (Netherlands); High Commissioner Austin Fernando (Sri Lanka); High Commissioner Sir Dominic Anthony Gerard Asquith (the UK); MM Palam Raju (Former Union Minister); Kenko Sone (Minister, Japan); Dr Robert Luck (Commercial Counsellor, Austria); Gavin McGillivray (Minister Counsellor Development & Head DFID India, the UK); Ambassador Artis Bertulis (Latvia); and Ambassador Gyula Petho (Hungary).

Ambassador Kozlowski said our foreign policy and security cooperation was being stepped up, including on counter terrorism and maritime issues.

He said “we are well advanced in strengthening our ties in trade and investments, new and renewable energy, environment, climate change, urbanization, digital agenda and space, science, technology and innovations.

The Ambassador said the bases for stronger relations were people-to-people contacts. “More and more Indians choose to travel, visit, do business or study in Europe.”
Working together, Ambassador Kozlowski said the EU and India can and will contribute to stability in our uncertain world, can meet better our citizens’ expectations.

He said the European Union and its member States were fully committed to take EU-India partnership forward.

Europe Day commemorates the anniversary of the 1950 Schuman Declaration, a speech delivered by the then-French foreign minister Robert Schuman proposing the creation of a European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC); the ECSC, formed in 1951 by Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany, was the first in a series of postwar cooperative endeavours between nations which would eventually become the European Union.


The Schuman Declaration states: “World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it. The contribution which an organised and living Europe can bring to civilisation is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations… The setting up of this powerful productive unit, open to all countries willing to take part and bound ultimately to provide all the member countries with the basic elements of industrial production on the same terms, will lay a true foundation for their economic unification. This production will be offered to the world as a whole without distinction or exception, with the aim of contributing to raising living standards and to promoting peaceful achievements.”

The 2019 Europe Day celebrations focused on the theme of “choosing your own future”, encouraging citizens across the EU to participate in the European elections between 23 and 26 May.

The European institutions are set to hold open days, with public debates, guided tours of official buildings, in Luxembourg today and in Strasbourg on 19 May; while an EU open day took place in Brussels on 4 May. Local EU offices in Member States and around the world are holding open days, activities and other events with the aim of demystifying EU processes and raising awareness of how the bloc’s institutions benefit citizens in their everyday lives.

Taiwan condemns China for blocking Taipei’s WHA participation

By Deepak Arora

TAIPEI, May 8: In the strongest possible terms, Republic of China (Taiwan) has condemned Beijing for blocking Taiwan’s participation in the 72nd World Health Assembly on the basis of the “one China principle”, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Forcing the World Health Organization to exclude Taiwan from the WHA runs counter to the principle set out in the U.N. agency’s constitution that enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental right of every human being, the MOFA said.

Such barbarian conduct blatantly ignores the health and well-being of the 23 million people of Taiwan, the ministry said, adding that it will only harden hearts and evoke public resentment.

The MOFA’s comments follow those by an official from Beijing citing the “one China principle” contained in U.N. General Assembly Resolution 2758 and the WHA Resolution 25.1 as grounds for Taiwan’s exclusion from the annual meeting of the WHO’s governing body from May 20 to 28 in Geneva.

According to the ministry, Taiwan is internationally celebrated as a beacon of freedom, democracy and human rights. The country has never been governed by Beijing or fallen under its jurisdiction, the MOFA said.

Only the democratically elected government of Taiwan can represent the people and the country in international organizations, the ministry said, adding that this will never change, irrespective of bullying and the ongoing campaign of coercion from the other side of the Taiwan Strait.

The MOFA urged like-minded countries to rally behind Taiwan as the government battles to give the people a voice in U.N.-affiliated organizations.

It is time for the international community to squarely face the evil nature of China’s government, the ministry said. Appeasement will only fuel its ambitions and lead to untold consequences, the MOFA added.

In a statement released the same day, the Cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council dismissed the official’s comments, particularly those stating Beijing places great value on ensuring the welfare of the people in Taiwan and has made proper arrangements regarding their participation in international health affairs.

Taiwan’s absence from activities, mechanisms and meetings of the WHO has created a breach in the global health network and undermined transnational efforts combating communicable diseases, the MAC said. The health rights of the entire human race must not be held hostage by China’s unjustified and unreasonable political position, the council added.

UK court denies bail to Nirav Modi for third time

LONDON, May 8: A UK court on Wednesday denied bail to diamantaire Nirav Modi for the third time even though he offered to furnish security deposit of 2 million pounds and follow strict conditions such as a 24-hour curfew.

Modi, who is facing an extradition request from India, has been twice denied bail by the Westminster Magistrates Court after his arrest in March.

Clare Montgomery, lawyer for Modi, described conditions in the Wandsworth jail where he is lodged as “difficult, vivid and damaging”, but chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot rejected grounds cited to seek bail, saying she continued to have concerns if bail is granted.

Arbuthnot, however, agreed that the offer to double the security deposit from 1 million pounds amounted to a “change of circumstances” which is necessary to prove to apply for bail after it has been refused. Modi was twice denied bail on March 20 and 29, when the 1 million pound-deposit was offered.

The judge’s concerns were about $60 million allegedly “squirreled” away by Modi, to which he would have access, his lack of links to the United Kingdom, where he has been since the end of 2017, and the likelihood of he or his associates intimidating witnesses and destroying evidence.

The extradition trial is due to begin on May 30, by when the Indian government is expected to furnish more details and evidence of allegations against Modi, who is facing charges of what prosecuting lawyer Nicholas Hearn said “direct embezzlement” of funds derived from a Mumbai branch of the Punjab National Bank.

Hearn of the Crown Prosecution Service representing India said: “60 million dollars of proceeds of crime are still untraceable, investigations are ongoing. He is able to influence witnesses and evidence if bailed. The court cannot have confidence in the assurances cited. He clearly remains a man with access to substantial resources”.

Montgomery’s efforts to refute allegations against Modi were described by the judge as “compelling”. She claimed that the issue arose out of a corporate failure, and told the court that the Enforcement Directorate had already seized Modi’s assets worth more than that lost by PNB: Rs 7664 crore worth of assets allegedly seized against Rs 6498 crore loss to PNB.

Modi’s lawyer also refuted the prosecution claim that he had travelled to New York in 2018. He could have moved to other countries, Montgomery said, adding that for him the UK was a “safe haven”, which was incentive enough for him not to breach conditions, if bail were granted.

Extracts of transcripts of conversations between various witnesses and Modi and his brother, Nehal Modi, were read out in the court. A team from Central Bureau of Investigation and ED attended the hearing.

Officials said they have already submitted all the documents related to the case before the UK court, including the charge sheets, witness statements, details of companies that were used for money laundering, and additional documents recovered during last few months.

Newly-Crowned Thai King Carried In Royal Procession

BANGKOK, May 5: Thailand's newly-crowned King Maha Vajiralongkorn was carried by soldiers on a gilded palanquin through the streets of Bangkok Sunday, in front of crowds who craned to witness the historic event.

The king, Rama X of the Chakri dynasty, wore a bejewelled robe and broad-brimmed hat with a feather on the second of three days of pageantry and royal splendour.

The 7-kilometre procession brings the public into close proximity with the 66-year-old monarch for the first time, two years after he ascended the throne in an increasingly assertive reign.

It started around 5pm (1000 GMT) at the grand palace in Bangkok's old quarter as trumpets blared, soldiers shouted commands and cannons fired a 21-gun salute.

Thais wearing yellow shirts -- the royal colour -- and carrying hats and umbrellas to protect against temperatures reaching 36 degrees Celsius filled the streets outside with many clutching portraits of Vajiralongkorn and shouting "Long live the King!"

"It may be my first and last chance to see this," 57-year-old street Nattriya Siripattana said ahead of the first ceremony of its kind in 69 years.

The three-day coronation, which started Saturday, is the first since Vajiralongkorn's adored and revered father was crowned in 1950.

The highlight of Saturday's sombre ceremonies was the King's anointment with holy water, before he placed the 7.3 kilogram (16 lbs) golden tiered crown on his head.

Early Sunday, the king bestowed royal titles on family members who crawled to his throne in a striking show of deference to the monarch, who was joined by his new Queen Suthida.

The queen, 40, was deputy commander of the king's royal guard before her marriage to Vajiralongkorn, which was announced days before the coronation.

During the procession, she marched in red and black uniform next to the palanquin.

Thailand's monarchy is swaddled in ritual, protocol and hierarchy all orbiting around the king, who is viewed as a demigod.

During the hours-long procession Thais will have the opportunity to "pay homage" to the king who will also stop at several major temples to pray before large gilded Buddha images.

On the ground authorities sprayed mists of water over the crowds whose numbers were bolstered by droves of "Jit Arsa" -- or "Spirit Volunteers" -- intended to project a show of devotion and fealty to the monarchy.

But soaring temperatures threatened to thin out the numbers.

Vajiralongkorn ascended the throne in 2016 after the death of his father Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The elaborate coronation ceremonies have been broadcast on live television and include a network of the powerful and influential in Thailand.

Junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who seized power in a 2014 coup, took part in many of the key rituals, including the procession.

The king and queen stayed the previous night in the royal residence, where a Siamese cat and a white rooster were placed on a pillow as part of housewarming rituals intended to bring good tidings.

One of the family members to receive royal titles was 14-year-old Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, who knelt and prostrated in front of his father as he was anointed with water.

The teenager is the king's son from his third marriage. He has six other children, including four sons from two previous wives.

Criticism or in-depth discussion of the royal family in Thailand is guarded by harsh lese-majeste rules that carry up to 15 years in prison.

All media must self-censor and the country's lively social media platforms have been subdued.

But the dazzling display of the primacy of the monarchy in Thai life belies a simmering political crisis held over from elections in March.

The junta that seized power in 2014 and has vowed to defend the monarchy is aiming to return to power through the ballot box.

Its proxy party has claimed the popular vote. But a coalition of anti-military parties says it has shored up a majority in the lower house.

Full results are not expected until May 9, a delay that has frustrated many Thais.

"When the event (coronation) is finished we will have to focus on politics," said Titipol Phakdeewanich, a lecturer at Ubon Ratchathani University.

Since ascending the throne the king has taken several assertive moves, including bringing the assets of the Crown Property Bureau under his direct control.

Though the royal family is nominally above politics, the king issued an election-eve message calling on Thais to vote for "good people" against those who create "chaos".

And in February, he scuttled the prime ministerial bid of his older sister Princess Ubolratana with an anti-junta party.

North Korea fires short-range missile

SEOUL, May 4: North Korea fired a short-range missile from the east coast city of Wonsan towards the east on Saturday morning, Yonhap News Agency reported, citing South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff.

The joint chiefs of staff said Korea and U.S. authorities are analysing details of the missile, which was fired at around 9 a.m., Yonhap said.

The joint chiefs of staff were not immediately available for comments, while South Korea’s presidential spokeswoman said they were checking the report.

Easter bombers visited Kashmir, Kerala for training: Sri Lanka army chief

NEW DELHI, May 4: The chief of Sri Lanka’s army said some of the people who carried out the April 21 serial bombings in his country had travelled to regions such as Kashmir and Kerala in India to possibly be part of terrorism training activities, according to an interview with the BBC published online on Friday.

The comments by Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayke is the first confirmation by a senior security official in either of the countries of the terrorists having travelled to India, a link that Indian security agencies have been pursuing since shortly after the attacks in the island nation.

“They had gone to India, travelling to Bangalore, Kashmir and Kerala state, (according to) information available with us,” Senanayke said.

Asked if he was aware of the purpose of those visits, the army commander replied: “It would have been for some sort of a training or to establish links with other organisations outside the country”.

Counter-terror agencies such as the National Investigation Agency have carried out raids in parts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, where they have picked up several people for suspected links to the Islamic State – the Syria-based terror group that claimed responsibility for the attack.

According to Indian officials who have not to be named, at least two of the suicide bombers had travelled to India in 2017.

A Union home ministry official did not comment on the Sri Lanka Army chief’s comment. “Sri Lanka hasn’t shared any such information with us. Importantly, Sri Lankan security agencies themselves have ruled this out after investigation,” a senior official in the security establishment, who did not wanted to named, said. Till now, Indian investigators have not mentioned a Kashmir link to the Lankan bombers, though leads were still being followed.

One of the key suspects who is believed by Indian officials to have visited India is Islamic preacher Maulvi Zahran Bin Hashim – leader of Sri Lanka National Towheed Jama’at (NTJ) and the ringleader of Easter Sunday attackers.

Indian officials refused to share details about the purpose of Hashim’s visit or the people he was in touch with. Hashim, an official said, was initially associated with Tamil Nadu Towheed Jama’at (TNTJ) but the organisation was not found involved in any terror activities. He subsequently broke away from TNTJ to form his own – Sri Lanka National Towheed Jama’at (NTJ) and started preaching violent form of Islam in the island nation.

Thailand king marries bodyguard ahead of coronation

BANGKOK, May 2: Just days before his official coronation, Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Wednesday married the deputy head of his personal guard force and gave her the title Queen Suthida.

The surprise announcement was carried in the Royal Gazette, and footage from Wednesday’s wedding ceremony was later shown on the nightly Royal News segment aired on all Thai television channels.

Vajiralongkorn, 66, also known by the title King Rama X, became constitutional monarch after the death of his revered father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in October 2016, after 70 years on the throne.

He is due to be officially crowned in elaborate Buddhist and Brahmin ceremonies on Saturday, followed by a procession through Bangkok the next day.

In 2014, Vajiralongkorn appointed Suthida Tidjai, a former flight attendant for Thai Airways, as a deputy commander of his bodyguard unit.

Some royal observers and foreign media had linked Suthida romantically with the king, but the palace had previously never acknowledged a relationship between them.

The king made Suthida a full general in the Royal Thai Army in December 2016, and the deputy commander of the king’s personal guard in 2017. He also made her a Thanpuying, a royal title meaning Lady.

Among the dignitaries at the wedding were Prayuth Chan-ocha, the leader of the military junta that has run Thailand since a 2014 army coup, as well as other members of the royal family and palace advisers, the wedding footage showed.

Vajiralongkorn has previously been married and divorced three times and has seven children.

While the king took the throne after the death of his father, his formal coronation follows a mourning period for King Bhumibol, whose royal cremation was held a year after his death.

Taiwan thanks international medical organizations for backing WHO participation

By Deepak Arora

TAIPEI, May 3: Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sincerely appreciated the strong support for Taipei’s participation in activities, mechanisms and meetings of the World Health Organization by leading international medical organizations.

In a letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Medical Association President Leonid Eidelman and WMA Council Chairperson Ardis Hoven called for Taiwan’s observer status in the World Health Assembly—the decision-making body of the WHO—to be restored for the 72nd edition of the annual gathering from May 20 to 28 in Geneva.

All countries and territories should be able to take part in and benefit from the work of the WHO, Eidelman and Hoven wrote on behalf of the WMA, which represents 114 national associations around the globe. Taiwan’s participation is a matter of health not politics, they said.

In a news release, Eidelman added that “the millions of Taiwanese people deserve their health interests to be represented.”

European Medical Association President Vincenzo Costigliola similarly conveyed support for Taiwan’s involvement in the WHO through a letter to Ghebreyesus and Anne Bucher, director-general of the EU health and food safety agency. Health is a universal human right and should not be pegged to politics, he wrote.

Also voicing support for Taiwan is the Standing Committee of European Doctors. The organization wrote to Romanian Minister of Health Sorina Pintea, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council through June 30, and European Commission medical officials urging them to back Taiwan’s WHA attendance.

According to the MOFA, these statements from leading international physicians’ organizations underscore the significance of Taiwan’s involvement in WHO activities, mechanisms and meetings. The ministry urged the WHO to heed the calls of these renowned medical bodies and facilitate Taiwan’s meaningful participation.

Taiwan thanks Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania parliamentarians for WHO support

By Deepak Arora

TAIPEI, May 2: The support for Taiwan’s participation in activities, mechanisms and meetings of the World Health Organization by lawmakers from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania is sincerely appreciated, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Around 80 Lithuanian members of parliament, more than half of the nation’s legislators, signed a letter April 24 to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus underlining the importance of Taiwan’s involvement in the 72nd World Health Assembly May 20-28 in Geneva.

Taiwan’s exclusion from the WHO creates a gap in the global health network that poses a threat to the security of all humankind, the parliamentarians wrote. It is unfair that the 23 million people of Taiwan are denied the basic right of health as enjoyed by the rest of the world, they added.

In a similar letter the following day, six members of the Latvian parliament wrote that Taiwan’s participation will strengthen the international disease prevention system and related WHO initiatives. The lawmakers added that this is also consistent with the policy objectives of the EU and its member states and serves the interests of all parties concerned.

According to the letter penned April 29 on behalf of the Taiwan Friendship Group in the Estonian parliament by MP Kalle Laanet, Taiwan is committed to realizing the WHO’s vision of health as a fundamental human right. This is evidenced by its announcement of a US$1 million donation to tackle the Ebola outbreak in 2018, he wrote.

The MOFA said that these statements by legislators from the Baltic nations join expressions of support from parliamentarians in other like-minded countries including Britain, France and Germany. This growing chorus spotlights the injustice of Taiwan’s exclusion from the WHO system, and underscores how Taiwan’s participation in the upcoming WHA can help bolster global health security, the ministry added.

Japan’s new Emperor Naruhito ascends Chrysanthemum Throne

TOKYO, May 1: Japan’s new Emperor Naruhito formally ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne on Wednesday, a day after his father abdicated from the world’s oldest monarchy and ushered in a new imperial era.

Naruhito officially became emperor at the stroke of midnight but the process was formalised with a brief ritual on Wednesday morning that was off-limits to female royals -- even his wife Masako.

The emperor entered the Imperial Palace’s Pine Room in formal Western clothing, including a heavy gold chain of office, accompanied by male family members including his brother Akishino.

The 59-year-old was presented with the items his father Akihito relinquished a day earlier: sacred imperial treasures of a sword and a jewel, as well as the seal of state and his personal imperial seal.

The sole woman invitee allowed to attend was the only female member of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet.

The ceremony took place on the first day of the new imperial era of Reiwa, meaning “beautiful harmony”, which will last throughout Naruhito’s reign.

Shortly afterwards, Empress Masako arrived by car at the palace in a diamond-studded tiara to join Naruhito for his first address to the nation as its 126th emperor.

He will also make a public appearance on Saturday when he will again speak to the people of Japan.

But the pomp and ceremony will wait until October 22 when he and Masako will appear in elaborate traditional robes for a ceremony in the palace before parading through the streets of the capital to be congratulated by a host of world leaders and royals.

Naruhito will greet his first foreign head of state as emperor later this month, when US President Donald Trump visits Japan to meet the new monarch.

The Oxford-educated Naruhito faces the delicate balancing act of continuing his father’s legacy of bringing the monarchy closer to the people while upholding the centuries-old traditions of the Chrysanthemum Throne.

Like his popular father Akihito, he has warned of the need to remember World War II “correctly,” without downplaying Japan’s early 20th-century militarism.

He has also spoken of the need to modernise the royal family, and vowed when he married Masako -- who left behind a promising diplomatic career -- to protect her “at any cost”.

She has struggled however to adjust to palace life, including being subjected to enormous pressure to produce a male heir, and has suffered stress-induced “adjustment disorder” for much of their marriage.

The couple have one child, a 17-year-old daughter called Aiko, who cannot inherit the throne because she is female.

In a statement released on her birthday in December, Masako pledged to do her best despite feeling “insecure” about becoming empress.

In the candid statement, she said she was recovering and could “perform more duties than before”, crediting the “powerful support” of the public.

Naruhito is ascending the throne in a very different Japan to the one his father took over when he became emperor in 1989.

Then, Japan ruled the world economically, its technology was the envy of every industrialised nation, and its stock market was at highs unlikely to be matched again.

At the height of the bubble, Japanese investors were snapping up paintings like Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” and US landmarks including the Rockefeller Center in Manhattan as “money was dripping off trees” -- in the words of one former banker.

But following a “lost decade” after the bubble burst, Japan is still locked in a battle against deflation and sluggish growth while its population ages rapidly and many rural areas suffer from depopulation as young people move to cities.

Akihito’s abdication, the first in 200 years, has resulted in an unprecedented 10-day public holiday for the famously hard-working Japanese, with many taking advantage of the break to travel.

But despite the holiday exodus, and steady driving rain on Tuesday night, crowds still gathered at Tokyo’s famous Shibuya crossing at the clock struck midnight to welcome the Reiwa era.

“The emperor was a good person... He was the symbol of Japan,” said Rika Yamamoto, a 24-year-old company employee sheltering under an umbrella on the crossing.

“I hope the new emperor will carry on the kindness the old emperor had.”

Political parties across the spectrum also welcomed the new emperor -- including the Communist Party, whose official platform considers the monarchy incompatible with democracy.

The party said it “celebrates the new emperor’s accession” and that it expected Naruhito to be a “symbol of the people”.

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