Tokyo, Oct 22 (AP/UNB) — Emperor Naruhito ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne on Tuesday, proclaiming himself Japan's 126th emperor as the audience shouted "banzai" to wish him a long and prosperous reign.
Naruhito pledged at an enthronement ceremony at the Imperial Palace to serve his constitutional duty as a symbol of the state and to stay close to the people, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe congratulated him and led three "banzai" cheers. The cheers traditionally means "ten thousand year" of long life.
"I hearby proclaim to inside and outside of the country that I have enthroned," Naruhito said as he stood inside the Imperial Throne. "I hereby swear that I will act according to the constitution and fulfill my responsibility as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people of Japan, while always praying for the happiness of the people and the peace of the world as I always stand with the people."
Naruhito, in a formal brownish-orange robe that has been dyed in sappanwood and Japanese wax tree bark and a black headdress decorated with an upright tail, appeared as a pair of black-robed chamberlains opened the purple curtains of the throne at the sound of a bell.
The throne, called "Takamikura," is a 6.5-meter (21-foot) -high decorative structure resembling a gazebo or something at the Forbidden City in China. It was transported from the former Imperial Palace in Japan's ancient capital of Kyoto, where emperors lived until 150 years ago.
The enthronement ceremony is the high point of several succession rituals that began in May when Naruhito inherited the throne after the abdication of Akihito, his father. Naruhito is the 126th emperor in the world's oldest hereditary monarchy that historians say goes back 1,500 years.
The proclamation is largely meant to allow the government to showcase the monarchy to win public support and to preserve Japan's cultural heritage, historians say.
Despite the time, effort and cost put into preparations, the ceremony lasted only about 30 minutes.
The enthronement ceremony was originally modeled after one by the ancient Tang dynasty of China and the second of a three-part process following the May succession. Next month sees the highly religious and divisive ritual of the Grand Harvest. Some experts have raised questions over the government's funding of 16 billion yen ($150 million) for ceremonies that contain religious rites.
Criticism was largely eclipsed by the festive mood, in part because Naruhito's succession was by abdication not by death, palace watchers said.
Abe's ultra-conservative government also granted pardons marking the occasion. The decision was published Tuesday in the special edition of the official gazette, which provided for about 550,000 eligible applicants. The decision was not publicly debated.
The pre-war custom of clemency by the emperor has triggered criticism as being undemocratic and politically motivated. At the time of former emperor Akihito's enthronement, 2.5 million people were given amnesty.
Earlier Tuesday, the 59-year-old emperor put on a white robe and prayed at "Kashikodokoro" and two other shrines. The visits Tuesday morning are to report to gods ahead of the ceremony, to be attended by 2,000 guests from in and outside Japan.
Enshrined at "Kashikodokoro" is the goddess Amaterasu, the mythological ancestress of Japan's emperors.
Later Tuesday, Naruhito and his wife Masako, a Harvard-educated former diplomat, will host a court banquet, to be attended by about 400 foreign dignitaries and representatives from Japan's administrative, legislative and judicial branches and their spouses.
A parade originally planned for Tuesday afternoon has been postponed until Nov. 10 due to a deadly typhoon that caused flooding and other damage in central and northern Japan.
Naruhito and Masako have been warmly welcomed by the Japanese public, despite comparisons to their beloved predecessors. They made positive impressions by freely conversing with U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania during their visit weeks after Naruhito's succession in May, palace watchers say.
"I think people have high expectations for the emperor who is fluent in foreign language and internationalized," said historian and monarchy expert, Eiichi Miyashiro, also a journalist.
Naruhito is a historian, a viola player and an expert on water transport who studied at Oxford. Masako, a Harvard-educated diplomat, has struggled for more than a decade since developing "adjustment disorder" after giving birth to their only child, Princess Aiko, and facing pressure to produce a boy in Japan's monarchy that only allows male heirs.
A shortage of males in the royal family has raised succession concerns. Naruhito has an 83-year-old uncle and two potential heirs — his younger brother Crown Prince Akishino and a 13-year-old nephew, prompting calls for a debate, possibly to allow female emperors.
Abe and his ultra-conservative supporters who want to keep paternalistic family values insist on male-only succession, while a majority of the general public support allowing female emperors.
Beijing, Oct 21 (Xinhua/UNB) -- President Xi Jinping recently made important instructions on the 20th anniversary of the system of sending sci-tech experts to rural areas.
Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, said in the past 20 years since the implementation of the system, more and more experts have been sent to the countryside to serve agriculture, rural areas and farmers with science and technology.
They have helped publicize the Party's policies on agriculture, rural areas and farmers, popularize agricultural science and technology, spearhead sci-tech innovation and entrepreneurship in rural areas, and lead villages out of poverty, Xi said.
"They have enabled farmers to acquire a stronger sense of fulfillment and and happiness," he said.
While stressing innovation offers significant support for the full vitalization of rural areas, Xi said more efforts should be made to adhere to the system which is a vital means of allowing sci-tech innovation talent to serve rural areas.
He encouraged sci-tech experts working in rural areas to uphold their original aspiration and make new and greater contributions to poverty alleviation and rural vitalization.
A meeting was held in Beijing Monday to mark the 20th anniversary of China introducing the system of sending sci-tech experts to rural areas. Important instructions made by Xi were read out at the meeting.
Vice Premier Liu He, also a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, said at the meeting that the important instructions made by Xi are the basic guidelines to carry forward the system in the new era, noting that the system and policy environment should evolve around innovation-driven development, rural vitalization and poverty alleviation.
Also at Monday's meeting, 92 sci-tech experts working in rural areas and 43 relevant organizations were commended.
Fuzhou, Oct 21 (Xinhua/UNB) -- A policy briefing of China-EU scientific cooperation was held Monday in Fuzhou, capital of east China's Fujian Province, according to the organizer.
The event attracted nearly 200 researchers, which was jointly hosted by the Delegation of the European Union (EU) to China, the Fujian Provincial Science and Technology Department and China Science and Technology Exchange Center.
Philippe Vialatte, minister-counselor of science and technology of the Delegation of the EU to China, introduced Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation program, to researchers at the event, during which counselors of science and technology of Germany, Italy and other European countries also presented their countries' cooperation policies and funding programs.
The Ministry of Science and Technology has funded 69 joint projects in the fields of new materials, food, agriculture, energy and health, which have strongly supported China-EU cooperation in scientific research, said Zhao Jing, deputy head of the international cooperation department of the ministry.
Provincial universities, enterprises and scientific research institutions have undertaken 34 China-EU scientific and technological cooperation projects of the ministry, and nearly 80 provincial cooperation projects with the EU, said You Jiansheng, deputy head of the Fujian Provincial Science and Technology Department.
Kabul, Oct 22 (AP/UNB) — A leader of Syrian Kurdish forces who have been attacked by Turkey says President Donald Trump's withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria was "akin to genocide."
Ilham Ahmed also tells reporters that her message to Trump is "Stop these massacres."
Ahmed was in Washington for meetings Monday. Among those she saw were senators who have sponsored a bipartisan measure sanctioning Turkey until it halts its invasion of northern Syria.
Two of those sponsors are South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham and Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen.
They say the U.S. should keep a modest number of American troops in Syria and provide air protection for the Kurds.
Graham said the U.S. should guard Syrian oilfields, and he called for an international force to guard a demilitarized zone between Turkish and Kurdish forces.
President Donald Trump says he still wants to get all U.S. troops out of Syria, but Israel and Jordan have asked him to keep some in Syria.
Just last week, Trump said the roughly 1,000 American troops in northeastern Syria will go home, leaving about 200 at a base in the southeast of the country. Then officials said the bulk of the troops would shift to Iraq.
Trump's Pentagon chief, Mark Esper, said Monday that he is considering the possibility of leaving an additional contingent in eastern Syria to work with Syrian Kurdish fighters to combat the Islamic State.
Trump also told reporters at the White House Monday that the U.S. would "work something out" with the Kurds in eastern Syria to ensure they have access to income from Syrian oil. He suggested sending an American oil company there to help.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he is discussing an option that would keep a small residual U.S. military force in northeast Syria to secure oilfields and continue the fight against Islamic State militants.
Esper said on Monday that he had not made a final decision on that option and had not yet presented it to President Donald Trump. Trump has insisted he's bringing home Americans from "endless wars" in the Mideast, but Esper says all U.S. troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq.
Trump has repeatedly said the Islamic State group has been defeated and has portrayed the withdrawal of American support for Kurdish forces as part of his larger goal of bringing troops home from the Middle East.
Esper emphasized that the proposal to leave a small number of troops in eastern Syria was intended to give the president "maneuver room" and wasn't final.
Bangkok, Oct 22 (AP/UNB) — Thailand's king has stripped his royal consort of her titles and military ranks for disloyalty, accusing her of seeking to undermine the position of his official wife, the country's queen, for her own benefit.
The royal command by 67-year-old King Maha Vajiralongkorn, made public Monday, came just three months after he granted 34-year-old Sineenatra Wongvajirabhakdi the consort title, reviving an old palace tradition of taking a junior wife.
Sineenatra had her title of Chao Khun Phra Sineenatra Bilasakalayani withdrawn, along with other royal and military titles and decorations.
In May, the king named longtime companion Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya his queen when they were married a few days before his formal coronation. Vajiralongkorn assumed the throne after the 2016 death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who reigned for 70 years.
Monday's command condemned Sineenatra in harsh terms, concluding that her actions "are considered dishonorable, lacking gratitude, unappreciative of royal kindness, and driving a rift among the royal servants, making misunderstanding among the people, and undermining the nation and the monarchy."
Both the 41-year-old Suthida and Sineenatra have served as senior officers in palace security units. Suthida was previously a flight attendant with Thai Airways, while Sineenatra was an army nurse.
Vajiralongkorn has seven children by three previous marriages, all of which ended in divorce.
The royal command went into unusual detail in explaining why the action was taken against Sineenatra.
It accused her of misbehaving by actively seeking to block Suthida's appointment as queen in order to take the position herself, and said that when she failed to block her rival, her "ambitions and aspirations" led her to continue to seek ways to promote herself.
The statement said the king tried to alleviate the problem and take pressure off the monarchy by appointing Sineenatra his official royal consort.
However, it said, "She wasn't satisfied with the royally bestowed position and still did everything to be equal to the queen."
Further describing her alleged transgressions, it said she took advantage of her position by falsely claiming royal prerogatives to order people around, "making people misunderstand her position to gain profit and popularity for herself" in a manner she hoped would lead to the king giving her a position equal to that of the queen.
"She wasn't satisfied with the royally bestowed position and still did everything to be equal to the queen," the statement said.
Sineenatra's most recent whereabouts have not been publicized, leading to rumors that she had fallen from grace. She had previously appeared openly in palace-issued media.
Just two months ago, a palace website released scores of photos of her and the king, some in formal settings and others in markedly casual poses, such as taking part in flying, shooting and skydiving. Others showed her and the king holding hands, unusually intimate photos for members of the royal family.
The last time a Thai monarch had an official consort was during the reign of King Vajiravudh, who died in 1925. But consorts were more common in the 19th century, when they often received their appointments as a way of cementing alliances with regional power brokers when the kingdom was still known as Siam.
During his decades as crown prince, Vajiralongkorn's personal life was often the subject of hushed gossip, and he was once described by his mother, then the queen, as "a bit of a Don Juan." But public discussion of such matters is hampered by Thailand's harsh lese majeste law, which mandates prison terms of up to 15 years for those found guilty of insulting members of the royal family.