Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Japan Reinterprets Constitution to Allow 'Collective Self-Defense'

A man shouts slogans over a public-address system during a protest outside the Japanese prime minister's office in anticipation his government will reinterpret the constitution to allow Japan's military a larger international role in Tokyo, Tuesday, July

VOA News
July 01, 2014 3:34 AM

Japan is set to ease restrictions on its military, in a historic move away from Tokyo's pacifist post-World War II policies.

Lawmakers on Tuesday approved a reinterpretation of Article 9 of Japan's U.S.-drafted constitution, which renounces war.

Thousands of protesters gathered outside Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's office to show their opposition to the move.

Sixty-seven year-old Toshio Ban was among the protesters.

"For 70 years, Japan has kept peace with its constitution. What are we to do with that stupid man trying to trample over the precious constitution?" asked Ban.

Under the new rules to be approved by the Cabinet later Tuesday, Japan's military would be allowed to exercise the right to "collective self-defense."

The change is intended to allow Japan to defend friendly nations that come under attack. It also allows for greater involvement in U.N. peacekeeping missions.

Prime Minister Abe has said the move is necessary to help Japan play a "more proactive" role in the region, where China's influence is rising.

China, which is involved in a territorial dispute with Japan, angrily opposes the change. It says Japan is challenging the post-war order and raising regional tensions.

The constitutional reinterpretation is also opposed by some in South Korea, which, along with China, was a major victim of Japanese colonial aggression.

"We really hope that Abe's government makes an unequivocal apology and reflects on its past actions, rather than trying to lift a ban on its collective self-defense," said An Ji-Jung, who helped lead a protest Tuesday outside Japan's embassy in Seoul.

After losing World War II, Japan was forced to dismantle its military and adopt a constitution that allows the use of arms only in case of an attack on its territory.

Interpretations of the constitution have since been stretched so as to allow Japan's Self-Defense Forces to be strengthened over the years as Tokyo's economic power has grown.

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