Japan has lifted a WWII ban on its military fighting in overseas conflicts – NEWS.com.au

Demonstrators hold placards to protest against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s controversial security bills in front of the National Diet in Tokyo on September 18, 2015. AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI

JAPAN has made a dramatic change in policy moving away from an adherence to pacifism in a decision that will have far reaching implications for world affairs.

The country’s parliament passed contentious security bills into law in the early hours of Saturday, in a move that could see Japanese troops fight abroad for the first time in 70 years.

Lawmakers approved the bills to ease restrictions on the country’s tightly controlled military, while outside thousands rallied in a last-ditch show of opposition to laws they fear could fundamentally reshape the proudly pacifist nation.

Currently, they can only use force for self-defence if the country or they themselves are directly attacked.

The rule is based on the Japanese constitution, drafted by the US after Japan’s defeat in the World War II, which bans the “use of force as means of settling international disputes”.

The changes, which would allow Japanese troops to fight in defence of allies, have drawn tens of thousands of people from across society onto the streets in almost daily protests, in a show of public anger rarely seen on such a scale.

Members of SEALDs (Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracies) stage a rally against Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's controversial security bills. AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI

Members of SEALDs (Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracies) stage a rally against Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s controversial security bills. AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGISource:AFP

Parliament security officers pull out an audience member after his hooting to support Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet. AFP PHOTO / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA

Parliament security officers pull out an audience member after his hooting to support Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet. AFP PHOTO / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURASource:AFP

Supporters of the move say it is vital to ensure Japan can respond to threats from an increasingly belligerent China and unstable North Korea, while opponents argue it will fundamentally alter the country’s pacifist character.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has welcomed the reforms. “These reforms will allow Japan to make a greater contribution to international peace and stability, including by exercising its UN Charter right to collective self-defence,” Ms Bishop said in a statement today.

The legislation has been something of a pet project for nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but has been highly controversial in Japan, and has cost him a lot of public support.

President of the upper house Masaaki Yamazaki said the bills passed with 148 lawmakers voting in favour, compared to 90 against, after hours of tense debate. The emotional affair was marked by impassioned opposition from a number of parliamentary members.

Opposition party councillor Taro Yamamoto gives the final appeal displaying green-coloured "No" ballot prior to his vote for the security bill at the upper house of the parliament. AFP PHOTO / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA

Opposition party councillor Taro Yamamoto gives the final appeal displaying green-coloured “No” ballot prior to his vote for the security bill at the upper house of the parliament. AFP PHOTO / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURASource:AFP

Outside large crowds, which police estimated at around 11,000, called for the prime minister to step down, shouting: “Protect the constitution.” Nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the changes are a normalisation of Japan’s military status, which has been restricted to self-defence and aid missions by a pacifist constitution imposed by the US after World War II.

Opponents argue they go against both the constitution and the national psyche, and could see Japan dragged into American wars in far-flung parts of the globe.

Japan’s military — the so-called Self Defence Forces — has 227,000 personnel across its army, navy and air force. That is small fry compared to China’s 2.33 million and 1.43 million in the US, but more than Britain, Germany and France.

Protesters continued to rally outside the National Diet parliament in Tokyo, Friday, to protest against Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plans to pass security legislation to expand the role of the country’s military. Protesters claim the bill will undermine Article 9 of the country’s post-war constitution which outlaws the use of war to settle international disputes. The protesters gathered outside Parliament to encourage parliamentarians to refrain from entering legislative committees and approving the bill’s measures. The protesters carried placards reading ?no war, love and peace? while chanting anti-Abe slogans. Abe has vowed to enact the laws to bolster Japan’s security stance by the end of the parliamentary session on September 27, amid a territorial dispute with China. The new legislation would allow the Japanese military to deploy abroad for the first time since 1945. The move would allow Japan to deploy troops to assist allies, likely the United States, without parliament’s approval or public debate. Analysts have linked the changes to the US’ ‘pivot to Asia,’ a policy widely seen to be an attempt to contain China.


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