Diet approves security bills: Is Japan moving towards militarism?

Japan diet

Ending 70 years of pacifism, Japan’s parliament approved controversial security bills that will now enable Japan’s military to defend its allies overseas, a controversial move that would take it towards the path of militarism. The military can now defend its allies under the concept of collective self-defence, which was considered unconstitutional by earlier governments in Japan. The Abe-led government pushed for the security legislation to be passed under the pretext of growing security threats in the region.

While the people of Japan do acknowledge the rising security tensions in the region, the overwhelming majority of people do not approve of militarism and prefer a demilitarised Japan which has seen a surge of economic prosperity over the years. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is known to be hawkish, has pushed the legislation successfully within 3 years of taking office.

Mr Abe has cited the growing assertion of China in the region to make a case for buttressing Japan’s military capability, but many people who have suffered at the hands of Japanese troops during the World War II  are still alive and still recount their horrific experiences. Some experts say that Japan’s commitment to global peace and security will now not be looked at with credibility which it managed to get over the years after giving up the path of militarism.

Leading policy analysts and scholars from all over the world have condemned this move by Japan. Joseph Matthews, director of the International Cooperation Department at Asia Euro University in Phnom Penh, said “the legislation is in open violation of Article 9 of Japan’s post-World War II (WWII) Constitution, which barred Japan from becoming a normal country and pursuing the rearmament of its forces.”

With the passing of the latest legislation, Japan’s chance of improving its relations with China has dimmed further, and could exacerbate Sino-Japan tensions. The intention of securing itself against China is seen as counter-productive by many as China could rather become more aggressive due to increasing regional insecurity. Japan’s relations with the neighbouring Korean peninsula is also likely to get impacted with this move.

As Shinzo Abe emerges as Japan’s most popular leader at the moment, his move to militarise Japan could hurt his image over the long-term. How Japan balances its move to increase its military involvement on one hand and work towards regional and global security on the other hand remains to be seen.

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