TOKYO – China reacted with concern after Japan’s ruling coalition, led by nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushed a bill through the country’s upper chamber of parliament Saturday removing some long-standing limits on overseas combat.
The legislation reinterprets Article 9 of Japan’s pacifist post-World War II Constitution. That section reads, in part, “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”
Now, the Japanese military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, or SDF, will be allowed to provide limited defense for its allies in conflicts abroad. The forces have traditionally been restricted to humanitarian roles.
The 148-90 vote was the final hurdle for the measures, which will go into effect within roughly the next six months. The lower parliamentary chamber passed the legislation in July.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said the laws are necessary to protect against threats from an increasingly belligerent China and unstable North Korea, but opponents fear the vague wording could see Japan dragged into far-flung foreign wars.
Abe has faced bitter opposition over the changes, which have seen his popularity slump, and opposition lawmakers have vowed to do everything in their power to fight them.
China’s Ministry of Defense accused Japan of clinging to a “Cold War mentality,” while media outlets noted the measures were passed a day after the 84th anniversary of Japan’s invasion of China.
“We will pay close attention to Japan’s next moves,” the Chinese ministry said in a statement Saturday. “We urge Japan to learn hard lessons from history, take seriously the security concerns of its Asian neighbors, stick to the path of peaceful development, and do more to promote regional peace and stability.”