In Digest

New Cold, Sept 18, 2015

Two news articles and related readings are enclosed.

Japan’s parliament approves controversial security bill

Deutsche Welle, Friday, Sept 18, 2015

Polls show the vast majority of Japanese people are against the new military and security laws of the gov't (AFP)

Polls show the vast majority of Japanese people are against the new military and security laws of the gov’t (AFP)

Japan’s upper parliament has approved a contentious law that removes post-World War II curbs on troops fighting overseas. The issue has sparked protests from pacifists who question the need to join global conflicts.

Ignoring a parliamentary fist-fight a day earlier, the upper House of Councillors – dominated by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition – gave its final endorsement to the controversial bill on early Saturday local time. The bills cleared the lower house of parliament last month.

The bill “is necessary to protect the people’s lives and peaceful way of living and is for the purpose of preventing wars,” Reuters news agency quoted Abe as saying at a press conference following the vote.

The approval flies in the face of deep criticism by many Japanese, who fear their country will now play a greater role in international conflicts.

Under the new law, Japan’s so-called Self-Defense Forces can now be deployed to help protect allies such as the United States, even if there is no direct threat to the country.

After the Second World War, Japan’s constitution was rewritten to restrict the military to defending itself and the country. But under the new law, the armed forces can come to the aid of allies under a concept known as collective self-defense.

Military shift

Previous governments have ruled any international combative deployments as unconstitutional, although Japanese forces have regularly engaged in peace-keeping missions, including in Iraq.

The Izumo, largest new warship in the Japanese navy since WW2 (T. Peter, Reuters)

The Izumo, largest new warship in the Japanese navy since WW2 (T. Peter, Reuters)

The changes would allow Japan to intercept a missile flying over Japan and headed for a different country, instead of one fired at Japan. Similarly, if a foreign warship were attacked, Japanese forces could now theoretically come to its defense.

But deployments can only occur if a situation was deemed an “imminent critical threat” to Japan.

Opponents of the new legislation say it is too vague and gives future governments too much leeway to interpret them as they see fit.

Many Japanese are concerned that after seven decades of peace and prosperity, any change to the pacifist policy would see the country become embroiled in international conflicts. Mass protests have been held in recent months to oppose the new law.

But the government says a more active military will help preserve the peace, as threats increase from North Korea and China’s growing status as a world power.

Fists out

Battle in Japan Parliament on Sept 17, 2015 over new military policy (EPA)

Battle in Japan Parliament on Sept 17, 2015 over new military policy (EPA)

On Thursday, a fight broke out in parliament after an upper-house committee voted to adopt the new legislation. In scenes unusually raucous for Japanese politics, opposition lawmakers had packed the corridors of the upper house to protest the bill, surrounding the chairman of the security legislation committee in a bid to physically prevent a vote overnight.

Japan’s new security position has been welcomed by Washington as it seeks to counter Chinese challenges to U.S. hegemony in the Pacific.

The U.S. remains treaty-bound to defend Japan in the likelihood of an attack, while concerns are mounting that Washington may not have the resources or political will to do so in the future.

Also on Deutsche Welle:
Japan moves closer to passing controversial security bills amid scuffles in parliament, Deutsche Welle, Thursday, Sept 17, 2015

Japan security bill prompts heated debate

AFP, Friday, Sept 18, 2015

Japan is expected to pass security bills that would allow troops to fight on foreign soil for the first time since World War II, despite fierce criticism it would fundamentally alter the character of the pacifist nation.

The legislation, backed by Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition, was expected to go to a vote in the full upper house some time on Friday, following days of heated debate that at times descended into scuffles and and shouting matches between parliament members.

Opposition lawmakers on Thursday pushed and shoved in a failed bid to stop a committee approving the bills.

Abe has faced fierce criticism for his handling of the bills and there are growing signs the campaign has taken a political toll. Major scuffles have broken out between parliament members over the security bills [EPA]

Opinion polls show the vast majority of the public is against the changes, and Abe’s once sky-high approval rating is dropping.

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in almost daily rallies, in a show of public anger on a scale rarely seen in Japan.

On Friday hundreds gathered again outside the parliament in Tokyo.

Opponents argue that the new laws – which would allow the tightly restricted military to fight in defence of allies – violate Japan’s constitution and could see the country dragged into US-led wars.

Abe wants what he calls a normalisation of Japan’s military posture, which has been restricted to narrowly defined self-defence and aid missions by a pacifist constitution imposed by the US after World War II.

Read also:
In Japan, tens of thousands protest return to militarism, by Jon Queally, Common Dreams, Aug 31, 2015


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