Combined photo shows Japanese Princess Mako (R), Emperor Akihito's eldest granddaughter, and her boyfriend Kei Komuro. (Kyodo)

Princess Mako, a niece of Japanese Emperor Naruhito, expressed her strong resolve to go ahead with her postponed marriage to Kei Komuro, her boyfriend from university days, in a statement Friday, but did not mention a specific date.

Princess Mako's parents, Crown Prince Fumihito and Crown Princess Kiko, respect the couple's desire to tie the knot, the Imperial Household Agency said, more than two years since their marriage was postponed.

The princess said she and Komuro think marriage is a "necessary choice" for them, but it is "still difficult to announce something specific at this time" and they will "consult our families in order to go ahead with the marriage," according to the statement released by the agency.

The agency said the coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult to set the dates of the ceremonial events, adding that it will make an announcement at an "appropriate time."

The princess and Komuro, both 29, met in 2012 as students at International Christian University in Tokyo. They announced in September 2017 their plan to get engaged, with their wedding originally scheduled to take place in November 2018.

But the agency said in February 2018 their marriage would be put off until 2020 following reports of a dispute between Komuro's mother and her former fiance over money, including her son's educational costs, which the man shouldered.

At that time, the princess said she "came to realize the lack of time to make sufficient preparations." Since August 2018, Komuro has been studying at Fordham University's law school in New York with a plan to take the bar exam in the United States after finishing his studies at the university next year.

In Friday's statement, the princess said she and Komuro have given thought about how their marriage and their lives together should be, while discussing about a range of topics.

"We are irreplaceable to each other -- someone to rely on during both happy and unhappy times. So a marriage is a necessary choice for us to live while cherishing and protecting our feelings," she said, adding the couple "acknowledge that some people are negative" about their planned marriage.

The message came after the crown prince, the emperor's younger brother, was declared first in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne in a ceremony earlier this month.

The rite, which was postponed from April due to the global health crisis, concluded a series of imperial succession rituals held since the emperor ascended the throne in May last year.

In the statement, the princess expressed gratitude to the emperor and Empress Masako as well as her grandparents -- former Emperor Akihito and former Empress Michiko -- for "respecting my feelings and quietly watching" the situation.

The crown prince had urged the Komuros to resolve outstanding issues if they want the wedding to go ahead as the marriage should be an event that can be "celebrated by many people."

In November last year, the crown prince urged his elder daughter to update the public on her wedding plans, saying in a press conference held on the occasion of his birthday, "I believe something must be announced about it."

For female members of the Japanese imperial family, marriage to a commoner means losing imperial status.

But given the shrinking imperial family under the 1947 law that states only men in the paternal line can ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne, there has been a debate about letting women retain imperial status even after marriage and establish their own branches to ease the load of public duties on individual imperial members.

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