Ja­pan congress passes de­fense bill

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHAO SHENGNAN in Bei­jing and CHEN WEIHUA in Washington

A com­mit­tee of Ja­pan’s lower house passed con­tro­ver­sial se­cu­rity bills aimed at beef­ing up the role of Ja­pan’s mil­i­tary on Wed­nes­day, de­spite strong do­mes­tic protests and con­cerns among neigh­bor­ing coun­tries.

The ap­provals, af­ter a vote sought by Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s rul­ing bloc, paved the way for a lower house vote, prob­a­bly on Thurs­day. If passed, the bills would then be de­bated in the up­per house. The rul­ing bloc dom­i­nates both houses of the Diet, Ja­pan’s leg­is­la­ture.

Observers said that if the bills be­come law, it would mark a his­toric shift for the of­fi­cially paci­fist na­tion, and such a move would re­quire vig­i­lance from Ja­pan’s neigh­bors, in­clud­ing China and South Korea.

The vote co­in­cided with Bei­jing’s an­nounce­ment that Sho­taro Yachi, the head of Ja­pan’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tar­iat and a key for­eign pol­icy ad­viser to Abe, will visit China from Thurs­day to Satur­day.

If en­acted, the bills will al­low the Ja­panese Self-De­fense Forces to en­gage in armed con­flicts over­seas and help de­fend oth­ers, even if Ja­pan is not at­tacked, un­der a pol­icy called col­lec­tive self-de­fense.

An ex­panded role for the Ja­panese mil­i­tary would mark a key de­par­ture from Ja­pan’s paci­fist Con­sti­tu­tion, es­pe­cially the war-re­nounc­ing Ar­ti­cle 9, which bans the coun­try’s armed forces from fight­ing over­seas.

An­gry Ja­panese protesters, re­port­edly num­ber­ing 60,000, on Wed­nes­day called the bill un­con­sti­tu­tional and de­manded Abe’s res­ig­na­tion.

Lyu Yaodong, an ex­pert on Ja­panese poli­cies at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences, said the

Polls by Ja­panese media show that the bills are un­pop­u­lar among aca­demics and the Ja­panese public.

That ten­sion was on dis­play on Wed­nes­day as op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers at­tempted to thwart the vote and hun­dreds of protesters chanted an­ti­war and anti-Abe slo­gans out­side the par­lia­ment.

The leg­is­la­tion is far from be­ing widely un­der­stood by the gen­eral public, Asahi Shim­bun news­pa­per said in an ed­i­to­rial on Tues­day.

“We be­lieve the Diet de­lib­er­a­tions on the bills have failed to ad­dress a slew of fun­da­men­tal ques­tions, not just is­sues con­cern­ing con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity but also ones that are im­por­tant from the view­point of how Ja­pan’s safety should be se­cured,” the news­pa­per said.

Huo Jiangang, an ex­pert on Ja­panese stud­ies at the China In­sti­tutes of Con­tem­po­rary In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions, said the bills are likely to be­come law de­spite Abe’s fall­ing poll rat­ings.

US State Depart­ment spokesman John Kirby de­scribed the Ja­panese se­cu­rity leg­is­la­tion as a do­mes­tic mat­ter for Ja­pan to speak to.

“We cer­tainly welcome, as we’ve said be­fore, Ja­pan’s on­go­ing ef­forts to strengthen the al­liance and to play a more ac­tive role in re­gional and in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity ac­tiv­i­ties, as re­flected in our new guide­lines for US-Ja­pan de­fense co­op­er­a­tion,” he told a daily brief­ing on Wed­nes­day.

TORUHANAI /REUTERS

Ya­sukazu Ha­mada (sec­ond from right), chair­man of the lower house com­mit­tee that ap­proved the bills, is sur­rounded by op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers af­ter the vote on Wed­nes­day. If the bills be­come law, Ja­panese troops will be able to fight abroad.

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