Japan has taken a decisive step away from its postwar stance on defence with a vote in parliament allowing the deployment of military force abroad in combat roles.
Until now Japan’s armed forces have not been allowed to fight in UN operations, or deployments with its allies. Opposition MPs dragged themselves to the podium to vote, and made vociferous declarations against the move, with several complaining Japan was meekly doing the USA’s bidding.
To no avail. The change was approved, and after the vote the prime minister said it was all about peace, not foreign agression.
“The legislation will protect Japan and our peaceful way of life…and prevent war. I believe the legal basis allowing our children and future generations peace has been established,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“It is so regrettable that the government ignored all the objections and enacted the legislation. This has scarred Japan’s pacifism, constitution and democracy”, said the leader of the opposition Democratic Party Katsuya Okada.
Critics note the new law will allow Japan’s hi-tech defence industry to export for the first time, opening a lucrative new market. Pacifists demonstrated outside parliament during the vote, as many Japanese are deeply uneasy about abandoning 70 years of pacifism.