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Japan: Hundreds protest as cabinet backs Abe’s military reform

by Our Foreign Desk

HUNDREDS protested yesterday as Japan’s cabinet approved controversial Bills to allow the military to intervene in other countries.

Crowds rallied outside the office of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calling the proposed laws “war legislation” that would turn the clock back to Japan’s militaristic past.

“I was born right after the war, but during this time Japan was able to gain prosperity and trust from the world because of our peace constitution,” said protester Taeko Otaki.

Mr Abe gave a news conference during which he claimed that Japan’s military needed to be able to do more to protect its territory and contribute to international peacekeeping.

“We cannot look away from this severe situation,” he said. “Right now, we don’t have the (legal) instruments necessary to eliminate the danger even when our lives are in clear danger.”

He did not elaborate on where such threats might emanate from, but Japan has strained relations with its neighbours China and North Korea.

The legislation would remove geographical restrictions on where Japanese forces can operate and allow Tokyo to send troops to defend its allies.

It would also strengthen the US-Japan alliance — which sees US troops stationed on Japanese soil — but Mr Abe denied claims that the plans might increase the chance of Japan being drawn into a US-led war.

Sophia University international politics professor Koichi Nakano said that the changes were problematic because they would allow the prime minister and a handful of leaders to make crucial decisions, such as dispatching troops overseas, without due process.

“I think it is possible that Japanese diplomatic power may be enhanced by this, but also there are people who are worried that Japan’s peace brand, the image of Japan as a pacifist country, is going to be damaged,” he said.

Imperial Japan waged a series of brutal — and often genocidal — wars against almost every nation around the Pacific Rim between 1905 and the end of World War II.

The constitution adopted in 1947 declares that the “Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.”

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