Japan Close to Nixing 70-Year Ban on Fighting Overseas
Protesters demonstrate against parliamentary reversal of 'defense only' stance
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 16, 2015 11:00 AM CDT
Japanese PM Shinzo Abe is shown during a parliament committee session regarding controversial bills on Japan's defense role overseas at the parliament in Tokyo yesterday.   (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

(Newser) – Japan's parliament today attracted protesters and opposition lawmaker walkouts after its lower house voted to allow the country's military to fight overseas, a power eschewed since WWII, the New York Times reports. A package of 11 security-themed bills supported by PM Shinzo Abe and the US—and given the thumbs down by about 80% of Japanese voters, the AP notes—was pushed through, setting off protests not seen since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, the Times notes. Abe says the legislation, which allows Japan to give US forces both logistical aid and/or armed backup in certain international situations, is needed to protect Japan against threats like China and ISIS, which killed two Japanese hostages this year. "The security environment surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly harsh," he said in a post-vote statement, per the AP.

The Times notes more than 90% of the country's constitutional experts say this is a violation of Japan's post-WWII charter, which reads in part: "Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes." Critics also fear Japan getting sucked into unpalatable wars, which Abe says won't happen, saying Japan could participate in an overseas conflict only if not doing so would put "the lives and survival of the Japanese nation" at risk—a condition critics say is too nebulous, per the Times. The law must still pass parliament's upper house, controlled by Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and the conservative coalition that also control the lower house, the Times notes. Also in Abe's favor: The lower house can override the upper house's decision. (Japanese manufacturers are jumping into the weapons business.)