The upper house of Japan’s bicameral legislature has passed security bills that will see the country expand the scope of operations by its troops overseas after the opposition exhausted all its delaying tactics.
Under the Potsdam Declaration at the end of World War II, the Japanese military was disarmed, leaving only a self-defense force.
The legislation, passed by the more powerful lower house in July, sparked protests and debate about whether the nation should shift away from its pacifist ways to face growing security challenges.
The security bills will revise 10 existing laws and give the military more latitude to defend Japan’s people and interests, to participate in collective self-defense, and defend allies like the United States.
Japan should learn hard lessons from history, pay heed to the call of justice from home and overseas and take seriously the security concerns of its Asian neighbors, he said.
Japan’s Self-Defense Forces have not fired a gun in anger for 70 years.
Critics, however, say the changes make a mockery of the pacifist constitution and deplore what they see as Abe’s authoritarian mode of pushing for enactment of the bills.
“The legislation’s enactment marks an unprecedented move that Japan has taken after World War II”, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei in a statement, according to Xinhua news agency.
Tempers flared in Japan´s parliament on Thursday, where chaos broke out as opposition politicians physically tried to block a committee approving the bills. But Abe’s Cabinet past year decided to allow it by unilaterally adopting a new interpretation of the constitution, instead of formally revising the charter, saying it must be adapted to today’s increasingly challenging security environment.
There are however many supporters of the legislation who feel that Japan has to play a more active role as there are potential threats from North Korea and China. Abe had promised the US that the legislation would be approved by this summer.
Joseph Matthews, director of worldwide Cooperation Department at the Asia Euro University in Phnom Penh, said the legislation is an open violation of Article 9 of Post-World War Two constitution, which bars Japan from becoming a military power again and restricting its armed forces to purely self-defense purposes.
Thousands of demonstrators have rallied near parliament every day this week, chanting “Scrap the war bills” and “Abe resign”. A recent poll carried out by Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun indicated that 54% of respondents opposed the legislation, while 29% supported it. Three-quarters of respondents said parliamentary debate on security measures has been insufficient.
“We should not allow such a unsafe government to continue like this”.