Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's disputed new security bills have passed through the lower house in Tokyo. Demonstrators have gathered by the thousands to protest the increased militarization of Japan's Self-Defense Force.
Despite its unpopularity with the public, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushed his new security bill through the lower house of parliament on Thursday. It now goes on to the upper house, where it has 60 days to be passed.
The proposed laws would greatly expand the role of the Japanese military, the so-called Self-Defense Force, which has maintained a strictly preventative function for decades, following Japan's post-World War II pacifist constitution. It would also drop a ban on fighting to defend a friendly country like the United States and make it easier for Japan to get involved in "gray zone" incidents falling short of outright war.
Abe explained that the bills were necessary because "the security situation around Japan is getting tougher," alluding to a rising China.
But while his tougher security stance is welcomed in Washington, other lawmakers were not so pleased at what they saw as an attempt to turn the country's constitution on its head. When a House of Representatives panel, dominated by Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) gave their approval for the measures to move forward to debate on Wednesday, opposition lawmakers held banners to protest the "forced" passage.
The huge demonstrations in Tokyo were reminiscent of the protests which saw Abe's grandfather toppled from the premiership 55 years ago.
"Prime Minister Abe, you should admit you have not obtained the people's understanding and immediately withdraw the bills," said opposition Democratic Party leader Katsuya Okada ahead of Thursday's vote, arguing the measures would allow Japan to become entangled in its allies' conflicts across the globe.
On the streets of Tokyo, thousands of protesters - organizers claimed 100,000 - took to the streets all night to voice their displeasure with the bill. Chanting and carrying placards that read "No War, No Killing" and "Abe, quit" they planned to stay in front of parliament all day Thursday, with more demonstrations planned for the coming weeks.
If the law falls to pass the upper house within 60 days, it goes back to the House of Representatives where it could be enacted by Abe's coalition if they manage a two-thirds majority vote.
es/ (Reuters, AP)