Tokyo-For the first time since World War II, Japan will be able to participate more in international peacekeeping compared with its previous, mostly humanitarian, missions.
The legislation, which took effect on Tuesday after being passed last year despite nationwide protests, have been backed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, who said it was important to improve international cooperation of armed forces.
The controversial security laws launched by Japan allow its military to engage in conflicts abroad for reasons other than self-defense, a move, critics see as a major deviation from the country’s pacifist constitution.
According to Shinzo Abe, allowing Japanese troops to fight overseas will boost the operational and geographical scope of Japan’s forces due to a perceived changing security dynamic in the immediate region and will better support Japan’s allies, such as the United States.
Objecting MPs consider that these new laws violate the restraints of Article 9 of the Constitution, which bans the use of force to settle international disputes and the exercise of the right to collective self-defense and vow to proactively contribute to regional and international peace and stability.
However, Abe’s cabinet has denied it was a violation of the constitution, which it said must be adapted to the challenging security situation in the current age.
In July 2015, however, Abe’s Cabinet unilaterally decided without a broader political or public mandate on the issue, to reinterpret the key clause and decided that if an ally was under attack and this posed a threat to Japan’s survival and no other means other than force could prevent the attack, that a minimum amount of force would be allowed by Japanese forces to repel an attack.
Despite constitutional experts, scholars and lawyers all finding the reinterpretation to be totally flawed and the subsequent war-linked legislation unlawful, Abe’s majority in both chambers of parliament ensured the bills’ passage and enactment into law, against a backdrop of nationwide public protests and international condemnation.
The new security laws mention that Japan’s forces on UN peacekeeping missions will be able to use their weapons to come to the aid of foreign forces under attack from any armed group, such as Japanese peacekeepers currently deployed in South Sudan.
The security legislation came against the backdrop of rising regional tensions over territory in the South China Sea, a massive area that includes archipelago where China has a growing military presence.
The reform enacted by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is partly a response to the changing security environment Japan faces, such as China’s military assertiveness and North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. But it remains controversial among the public who fear the laws could erode Japan’s postwar pacifism.
The latest media polls show that more than half of Japan’s population oppose the new war laws with even more believing they violate Japan’s Constitution. Only a minority of those polled recently view them as being favorable.