Japan’s lower house clears controversial military legislation

In a significant development that is set to impact the evolving geopolitical landscape in Asia, Japan’s lower house passed a landmark legislation which would enable Japan to send troops to fight abroad for the first time since the ‘Second World War.’ The legislation was championed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and was a top priority of his security policy for a resurgent Japan.  As expected, the backlash and protests that followed the legislation was quite spectacular, with thousands of protesters gathering outside the National Diet chanting slogans such as “No war, No Killing” and “Scrap the War Bills”.

China angle

The passage of the bill was certain considering the majority that the Abe- led coalition has in the House of Representatives despite the opposition deciding to boycott the vote. Mr Abe has emphasised on a bolder security stance to counter the security challenges facing the region, especially from China in the disputed islands of South China Sea.  The move has been welcomed by Japan’s close ally, the United States. However, the opposition in Japan feels that this move could drag Japan into the US-led wars and this would violate ‘Article 9’ of the constitution which has been a bone of contention since Mr Abe took office. Amending ‘Article 9’ has faced a lot of resistance from the people of Japan, since the devastation of the ‘Second World War’ still remains fresh in the memory of the people of Japan.

With China entangled in maritime disputes with many of its neighbours including Japan, Tokyo is refashioning its strategy to tackle the Chinese assertiveness and protect its territory.  Since the beginning of Mr Abe’s term, he has been vocal on China’s assertion and domination in the region and has left no stone unturned to take on China in international fora.

This move by Mr Abe is expected to change the dynamics of security in the region as well as international security. It could also strengthen Japan’s will to expand military alliances with countries such as the US, India and Australia to counter China. While Mr Abe’s popularity is expected to take a hit, many still feel his return to power after the elections in September is imminent since the opposition is weak and the rebel factions in his party are not strong enough to dislodge him. Giving momentum to the Japanese economy by continuity is also seen as one of the reasons that would assure Mr Abe of another term.

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