2015 Japanese military legislation

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In 2015, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party promoted legislation, passed on September 19, 2015, despite some public opposition, to allow the country's military to participate in foreign conflicts, overturning its previous policy of fighting only in self-defense. Since the Japanese constitution only allows the Japanese military to act in self-defense, the legislation reinterpreted the relevant passages to allow the military to operate overseas for "collective self-defense" for allies.[1] The legislation came into effect on March 29, 2016.

Background[edit]

On 15 May 2014, an advisory panel formed by Abe recommended that Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which prohibits the use of military force internationally, be reinterpreted to allow the use of military power to be widened.[2] On 1 July, the government announced that it had devised a policy dubbed "collective self defense" that would allow it to use armed force to defend allies.[3] Abe had originally proposed to give the military even more leeway, but resistance from lawmakers in both parties of the governing coalition led to the softening of the language.[3] With Abe's coalition a majority in both houses of parliament, the language was expected to be passed into law later in the year.[3]

In February 2015, Abe said that he planned to begin work to amend Article 9 after the 2016 parliamentary elections.[4] Abe cited the beheading of two Japanese hostages by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (commonly known as ISIS) in his goal of allowing Japan's military to intervene overseas to protect Japanese citizens.[4]

Legislative history[edit]

Demonstrators and police buses outside the Japanese National Diet on Friday September 18, 2015 during the debate in the House of Councillors shortly before the 2015 Japanese military legislation was passed in the early hours of September 19th.

On May 26, 2015, the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the National Diet, began debate on a package of eleven bills granting the military the power to engage in foreign combat in limited circumstances,[5] named the "Peace and Security Preservation Legislation" by its sponsors.[6] Debate in the Diet had been scheduled to end in June, but a final vote was later delayed to September.[6]

On July 16, 2015, the House of Representatives passed the legislation, the final version of which allowed the military to provide logistical support to allies overseas, as well as armed support in circumstances when inaction would endanger "the lives and survival of the Japanese nation."[5] The vote was passed on the strength of the majority coalition of LDP and Komeito lawmakers; members of the opposition boycotted the vote in protest.[5]

After passage in the House of Representatives, the House of Councillors, the upper house of the National Diet, debated the bill for two months.[7] It passed from committee on 17 September in a contentious vote in which opposition lawmakers attempted to physically restrain the committee chairman, upon which it moved to the full house for a final vote.[7] Early in the morning of 19 September, the bill passed the full house after a delayed vote in which opposition members used various delaying tactics to draw out the process.[8] In an effort to delay passage until after the Silver Week holiday, Yukio Edano of the Democratic Party of Japan spoke for 104 minutes (having planned to speak for four hours) in support of a no confidence motion against the cabinet, while Tarō Yamamoto of the People's Life Party attempted to delay voting by walking very slowly to the ballot box.[9]

Effects[edit]

The legislation has been effective since March 29, 2016. One of the first applications of the legislation was to authorize the SDF peacekeeping team in South Sudan to aid UN or foreign country personnel under attack in the country.[10]

While the legislation is expected to allow Japanese and U.S. forces to work more closely together, such as by forming integrated naval task forces to repel an invasion of Japan, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani denied that Japan would always come to the aid of the US, and Prime Minister Abe specifically ruled out the possibility of extending SDF support for the coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[11]

Public opposition[edit]

Demonstrators and police buses outside the Japanese National Diet on Friday September 18, 2015 during the debate in the House of Councillors shortly before the legislation was passed in the early hours of September 19th. A Zengakuren banner is visible in the middle of the image.

The legislation was controversial within Japan.[12] According to some polls conducted in July, at the time of the legislation's debate in the House of Representatives, the Japanese public was opposed to the bills by an approximately two-to-one ratio.[5] A protest on 16 July drew an estimated 100,000 people to the Parliament building.[5] Later protests in September ahead of the House of Councillors vote drew crowds of between ten and thirty thousand.[8]

The Abe governments's approval rating fell below its disapproval rating following the House of Representatives' passage of the legislation in July 2015, and again following its final approval in September. A slight majority of poll respondents in September thought that Japan’s deterrent capabilities would not be strengthened by the legislation.[13]

Much opposition to the legislation centered around its alleged questionable constitutionality. Repeated surveys of experts in Japan's constitution showed that more than 90% of those surveyed believed it was unconstitutional,[8] and in June, Waseda University professor Yasuo Hasebe, in an address to the Diet with two other constitutional scholars, said that it would "considerably damage the legal stability" of Japan.[6] After its passage, it was expected to be challenged in court, although Japan's legal system has rarely ruled against the government in security matters.[8] A revision of the Japanese constitution to revise Article 9 would require a national referendum, which, due to perceived current public opposition to Abe and the legislation, was thought to be unlikely to succeed in the short term.[5] In defense of the bills, Nihon University professor Akira Momochi argued that the legislation was in keeping with the United Nations Charter, saying that the right to self-defense is "a given for international laws, and that supersedes national laws."[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Japan military legislation changes draw protests". BBC. 30 August 2015. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  2. ^ "Japan Moves to Scale Back Postwar Restrictions on the Use of Military Power". The New York Times. 15 May 2014. Retrieved 22 September 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c "Japan Announces a Military Shift to Thwart China". The New York Times. 1 July 2014. Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  4. ^ a b "Abe Is Said to Have Plans to Revise Pacifist Charter". The New York Times. 5 February 2015. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Japan Moves to Allow Military Combat for First Time in 70 Years". The New York Times. 16 July 2015. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d "In Japan, a plan to expand military's powers faces growing resistance". Los Angeles Times. 30 June 2015. Retrieved 22 September 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "Japan Military Bills Provoke Scuffling in Parliament". The New York Times. 17 September 2015. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Japan's Parliament Approves Overseas Combat Role for Military". The New York Times. 18 September 2015. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  9. ^ "The showdown that obscured Japan's national security debate". Nikkei Asian Review. 19 September 2015. Retrieved 24 September 2015. 
  10. ^ "Japan set to expand SDF role in S. Sudan from May under new laws". Nikkei Asian Review. Kyodo. 22 September 2015. Retrieved 24 September 2015. 
  11. ^ "Turning point for Japan's security / Security laws enable Japan-U.S. integrated operations". The Yomiuri Shimbun. 21 September 2015. Retrieved 24 September 2015. 
  12. ^ "Japan parliament passes controversial security bills". Retrieved 2015-09-21. 
  13. ^ "Cabinet approval dips to 41% after security laws pass". The Yomiuri Shimbun. 21 September 2015. Retrieved 24 September 2015. 

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