- Title: JAPAN-SECURITY BILL/PREVIEW Japan is set to pass controversial security bills
- Date: 14th September 2015
- Summary: TOKYO, JAPAN (RECENT - AUGUST 30, 2015)(REUTERS) PEOPLE HOLDING UP PLACARDS DURING PROTEST BANNER BEARING PHOTO OF PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE WOMAN CHANTING PLACARDS, ONE OF THEM READING (English): "WAR IS OVER, IF YOU WANT IT" PEOPLE GATHERED AS THEY MARCH TOWARDS PARLIAMENT
- Embargoed: 29th September 2015 13:00
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVAE4AHY6WO7OGG8KPMIZ5O5DEQN
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- Story Text: Japan's parliament is set to pass controversial legislation this week, which will dramatically change Japan's defense policy and allow troops to fight abroad for the first time since World War Two.
On August 30, tens of thousands of protesters gathered near Japan's parliament building to oppose the legislation and to show their mistrust in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's security policy.
In one of Japan's biggest protests in years - organizers put the crowd at 120,000 - people of all ages braved occasional rain to join the rally, chanting and holding up placards with slogans such as "No War" and "Abe, quit". More protests are scheduled in the coming days.
Abe has vowed to pass the controversial legislation and in July pushed through parliament's lower house a group of bills that let Japan's armed forces defend an ally under attack, a drastic shift in Japan's post-war security policy.
Despite big public protests, Abe's ruling bloc wants to pass the security bills before parliament ends its session on September 27. A vote in the upper house is expected this week.
A newspaper poll showed on Monday (September 14) that more than half of voters in Japan are opposed to their government's plans to enact legislation this month that would allow Japanese troops to fight abroad for the first time since World War Two.
A poll carried out by Asahi Shimbun showed 54 percent of respondents opposed the legislation against 29 percent who backed it, and 68 percent saw no need to enact the bills during the current session.
Japan's past is still a thorn in relations with its neighbours even after 70 years.
"Japan has a history of invasion, therefore, regardless of any reason, I do not want Japan to become capable of that again," Nanae Kashiwado, a 57-year old veterinarian said.
However, some Japanese residents agreed with Abe and voiced fear of China's rise in power.
"I feel worried whenever I read about China's rising military strength, and I think we will have a hard time if we don't match their power," 26-year old engineer, Genta Aihara, said.
China and Japan have long faced unresolved territorial disputes over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, called Senkaku by Tokyo and Diaoyu by Beijing, souring relations between both countries.
The United States, Japan's powerfully ally, has welcomed Abe's move as vital to meet new security challenges.
Christopher Hobson, assistant professor of International Politics at Tokyo's Waseda University, said part of the reason for the security bill is also due to fears that the United States will not be as reliable in future.
"The United States is declining in power following wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and also, economic problems. So, there is an increasing concern about whether the United States is as reliable an ally as it used to be," he said.
Japan and the United States regularly hold training events together where they simulate launching attacks on island or territories occupied by hostile forces.
Japan's Ministry of Defense submitted a request for a 2.2 percent increase in military spending last week (September 7) for the year starting in April 2016. If approved, the new defense budget at 5.09 trillion yen ($42.38 billion) would be Japan's biggest in 14 years.
Opponents say the bills will increase the risk of the Japan's Security Defense Forces being dragged into armed conflicts and thus endanger Japanese people's right to live in peace.
They say it is unconstitutional, as Article 9 of Japan's current post-war constitution, imposed upon by the United States after World War Two, bans the use of military force.
"What the LDP (the ruling Liberal Democratic Party) has done is, they tried to reinterpret the constitution which is widely considered by most of the experts to be unconstitutional," Hobson said.
The ruling party has said it wants to play a bigger role in international politics.
"For people like Abe, there's a desire for Japan to throw off the legacy of World War Two and become a more normal country," Hobson said.
Abe's ruling bloc has a majority in the upper house, but opposition parties have vowed to use all possible means to prevent a vote, including delaying procedures by submitting time-consuming non-confidence and censure motions.
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