Japan’s ruling camp agreed Wednesday to push by the end of the week for the enactment of contentious security bills despite mounting opposition over what would be a major shift in the country’s postwar security policy.
Political wrangling in parliament has entered a crucial stage, with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner the Komeito party aiming to put the bills to a vote Wednesday night at an upper house panel and the opposition camp taking various steps to delay the vote.
At the center of the debate is a set of bills designed to expand the scope of activities by the Self-Defense Forces abroad. Particularly controversial is enabling Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of the United States and other friendly nations under armed attack, even if Japan itself is not attacked.
Tensions remained high as a regional public hearing was held in Yokohama. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was due to attend a final question-and-answer session Wednesday after the hearing.
Thousands of protestors including students have rallied in front of the Diet building in recent days, clamoring for scrapping the bills, termed by them “war legislation.”
After the bills are put to a vote at a House of Councillors committee, the legislation is set to be enacted by the upper house in a plenary session, and pass into law as early as Thursday, according to lawmakers.
Some opposition parties led by the Democratic Party of Japan, however, could boycott the voting at the panel.
They have vowed to take every possible measure to block the bills. Steps include submitting a no-confidence motion to the House of Representatives against Abe’s Cabinet and a censure motion in the upper house against Abe.
Despite the delaying tactics, it appears certain that the LDP-Komeito coalition will enact the legislation given its majority in both chambers of parliament. The ruling camp rammed bills through the lower house in July.
Meanwhile, three other opposition parties are expected to support the bills after they agreed Wednesday with the LDP and Komeito to ensure through Cabinet approval a greater role for the Diet in approving SDF dispatches overseas as a way to put restraints on SDF operations.
If enacted, the new legislation will put into effect a landmark Cabinet decision in July last year that reinterpreted the war-renouncing Constitution to allow Japan to use the right of collective self-defense.
The right can be exercised under three conditions—if a friendly nation is under attack which results in a threat to Japan’s survival, if there are no other appropriate means to repel the attack, and if the use of force is limited to the minimum extent necessary.
Advocates say the bills are needed to deal with the changing security environment facing Japan, citing China’s increasing military assertiveness.
But constitutional scholars and other critics argue that the security policy shift—which could allow Japanese troops to fight abroad for the first time since World War II—would violate the Constitution and possibly push Japanese troops into involvement in U.S.-led operations.