Japan is set to vote on a security bill that will permit the military to fight overseas for the first time since World War II.
The bill, which is expected to be passed Japan’s upper house, comes amidst growing concern over China as well as US foreign policy under President Obama which seeks to restrict American ground troop involvement in the protection of allies and the promotion of their military capabilities instead.
Japan’s constitution following its defeat in World War II prevented it from taking aggressive action and restricted the military to ‘collective self-defence’. Many have struggled to define this term with many Japanese remarking that it is difficult to imagine that the country may only use force after it has been attacked.
Nevertheless, the bill has proved highly controversial with public protests as well as scuffles within parliament as the opposition have sought to stall the bill, arguing that the clause is fundamental to the protection of the country.
Why the change?
In terms of the actual change, the bill is more a reinterpretation rather than any drastic change in the wording of the clause. However the intended effect is clear; to widen the remit of Japan’s use of military force to encompass more aggressive action. The bill comes at a time when China has been forcefully expanding its claims to territory in the South China sea, irking its regional neighbours including Vietnam, Philippines, South Korea and the Japanese themselves. Whilst many argue that the clause currently protects Japan as it prevents it from being a threat and provoking other nations, supporters of Abe indicate that the clause should reflect the times and Japan must be well-equipped to deal with a retreating US foreign policy that has resulted in many questioning its commitment to protecting its allies in the region.
It is worth noting that the US is firmly backing the bill, with many Japanese believing that it instigated this entire episode in the first place.