Japan’s Parliament Approves Overseas Combat Role for Military

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe succeeded in his effort to move beyond the postwar pacifism that has kept his country out of conflicts.

Comments: 119

  1. Don't they need to maintain a ready domestic force to fight Godzilla?

  2. They already have one. It's called Mothra.

  3. Stunningly thoughtless fruit of ameircan foreign policy by people too smart to learn from bitter experince, or, fools.

  4. Fools. The process was hardly democratic but the people have themselves to blame in belatedly getting into the process.
    Ironically the Self Defense Force members and their families have been reported to be upset about possibly being sent overseas into danger. Up until now Japanese "military" personnel were basically bureaucrats.

  5. Finally - it's about time. Japan has a right to defend itself.

    WWII was over 75 years ago. Move on, people.

  6. Oh, you thought Japan has been denied the ability to defend itself intil now?

    What an .... american view. Untrue, but american. However, it is the Obama policyless policy line. Scornful scolding by people never lived through war. Maybe that is a concidence.

  7. Though it may take time, the best is to judge constitutionality of Abe's securities laws at the supreme court since Abe administration and LDP controlled parliament didn't try national referendum. In the meantime, the US had better publicize our complaints to the Japanese public so that the Japanese people have enough information to decide what to do with their security. Since there is no NATO type organization in East Asia, it may be better for Japan to maintain current Article 9 of Peace Declaration with complete defense capability against any type of attack, if possible, so that Japan's rearmament will not make her neighbors nervous. It is up to the Japanese people to hold nuclear weapons for this purpose.

  8. In my opinion, this development is as big a threat to world peace as the possibility that Iran might develop a nuclear bomb.

  9. Japan is a democracy and a US ally, while Iran is neither, so your analogy is false.

  10. Only if you think a demilitarized Japan's regional military weakness is the lesser threat.

    Times change, and nations must change with them. What threatens long-term peace in East Asia is Communist China's recklessness born of totalitarianism, unbridled chauvinism and nationalism; the same kind of totalitarianism and nationalism that propelled Japan into its wars of aggression during the 1930s.

    German reunification seemed utterly inconceivable the first time I visited (1986). I still recall what I saw crossing East Germany from Lübeck into West Berlin: the Soviet Army, and how it had turned the countryside we passed through into a monstrous fortress. It looked impregnable. Soviet Hind attack helicopters practiced strafing runs on our tour bus as it drove along an otherwise cordoned-off, fenced-in autobahn. Feldgrau-uniformed East German Grenzpolezi armed to the teeth took and photocopied my passport entering and leaving the closed transit zone.

    To all outward appearances it seemed as solid as a rock. The idea that it would all disappear in scarcely four more years never entered my mind; even as a remote possibility.

    It's the same here. Japan's isn't a clone of the pre-Meiji Restoration Shōgunate. The Imperial Army and Navy aren't two competing states within a Japanese nation styled as an empire, dividing power between them like rival principalities, the medieval fiefdoms from which they sprang.

  11. I think it's a dark day when the ideal of renouncing war gives way to the ideal of announcing the ability to go to war. One of the great accomplishments of the 20th century was getting a nation to lay down their arms and stick to it. We're not doing so well here in the 21st century.

  12. My personal opinion aside, this is clearly a violation of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. We're not following our own law here. And let me emphasize that throughout the process, there wasn't any national discussion on the matter. This is one of the most important issues to us and it was decided in the closed door politics.

  13. Pressured by other "Developed" nations to change their pacifism - so they (that includes the US) can sell them weapons. Follow the money.

  14. Nobody pressured Japan. This was something right-wing nationalists have wanted for a long time. Japan already purchases a lot of US arms, and the Self Defense Force is the 7th best funded military in the world.

    Although I don't think much of this new law, your view seems to suggest that other people around the world are child-like innocents who only go bad thanks to American influence. Sadly, they are perfectly capable of making poor decisions on their own.

  15. The biggest open question is whether or not the demonstrators will take their opposition to the voting booth. Japan's antinuclear movement failed because its members deamed themselves above politics and failed to get involved in elections. In contrast, SEALDs originated with disgust at the right-wing coup in the last election. The next battle is in the Upper House election next year. Will SEALDs follow through?

  16. The Constitution is the first law of the land. The package of bills which the Abe government has passed (against the will of a majority of Japanese, according to all opinion polls) are unconstitutional. This is the opinion of a former supreme court judge and eminent constitutional lawyers. Abe, if he had the arguments and the credibility, should have taken the country through a process of constitutional change. But he has neither arguments nor credibility, and so the government has used the backdoor route. People cannot believe the assurances of this government, that it will observe the strict letter of the new laws–allowing the Japanese military to operate overseas only in exceptional circumstances–because they have seen it twist the constitution out of all recognition and use its numbers in the Diet instead of inviting the people to decide in a referendum. A sad day.

  17. The thing is that the Japanese constitution was written by Americans and the Japanese were forced to sign as a part of ending world war 2. The scary thing is that most Japanese people are not taught about World War 2 and most Americans dont know about the inception of their constitution. That being said, parts of the constitution does need to change. The, basically, unchanged laws regarding women's rights have forced Japanese women to make the choice of career woman or mom. Many have chosen career woman and Japan has seen their youth populations suffer. Instead of tending to these areas of the constitution, Abe has decided to take the small percentage of young people they have and expose them to war. All the ignorance regarding the Japanese constitution in Japan and abroad, coupled with the fact the many Japanese people are not aware of their more recent Japanese history is very chilling because we all know the saying, "those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it."

  18. Well put! The constitutional crisis embedded in these security bills is more worrisome than the bills themselves. Can and will these bills be challenged in court? If they are challenged and found to be unconstitutional, how will the Abe administration respond? Last year's election had the feel of a coup d'etat, albeit by legal means. A court challenge of these bills may well show the world that it was indeed a coup d'etat.

  19. A fascist regime voted into power by less than a third of the votes in the last election due to Japan's archaic election system has pushed through an unconstitutional law, despite overwhelming opposition. This is not a sad day. It is a scary day.

  20. A lot of the opposition to this bill is because those born in the post-war era have a strong sense of pride in Japan being a "nation of peace" - this has become a strong part of the identity of Japanese people and goes beyond what-if arguments of possible entanglements in the future. The debate touches the very core of how Japanese view themselves.

  21. I hope the Japanese view the world beyond themselves and realize that they have enjoyed the protection of the US -provided for free courtesy of the US taxpayer- since 1945. Now it is the time to begin shouldering a burden commensurate with the economic position they have in the world. It must be pleasant for Japan and Germany to imagine that the US will take care of all the dirty work while they need only concern themselves with selling cars and electronics.

  22. Adopting this new policy would have been a sound move if had stipulated a Kamikazi-only requirement.

    Nothing in this universe is capable of destroying the morale of fanatical Islamists more than fanatical Japanese suicide pilots with pinpoint accurate targeting capabilities.

  23. Except an Army lead by political appointees kept on a short leash so only their noses get soiled.

  24. Well said. As a Japanese citizen, your irony has much insight for our fake Democracy consituted by politically indifferent people that have allowed this helplessly idiot PM to behaive like an insane dictator. I hope lessons learned now not to repeat this farce again.

  25. Presumably you are joking, but cruise missiles and laser-guided bombs are just as effective as suicide pilots, and suicide pilots did not destroy the morale of the US military during WW II.

  26. It may appear beneficial for the US for a short term interests as Japan can now participate with US-led wars outside of Japan. But, it is a defeat for a Constitutional Democracy that US tried to establish in Japan at the end of World War II. No matter how you twist the interpretation of Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, the new laws cannot exist unless the constitution is re-written first through democratic process. One should wonder why Judicial Branch of the Japanese government did not debate the constitutionality of the laws. Simply, the separation of power among the three branches of the government does not exist in Japan. Neither is the Freedom of Press.
    A sad day for Japan, because Constitutional Democracy is and has been a pretense there for the last 70 years.
    A sad day for Japan, and for the world as it lost a nation who has renounced the WAR without any ambiguity by the constitution.

  27. In the past, wars were started by the sinking of ships or the rolling of tanks. Tomorrow it may be by hurtling of atom bombs obliterating cities. Defence is only one half of victory. The shield needs a sword. And remember as Aristotle said, The only good use for war is to restore peace.

  28. Tactically, this makes strategic sense and was obviously engineered by the U.S. government. With Japan-China relations near a boiling point, the U.S. is surreptitiously disengaging itself from Japan as "Protector In Chief" and handing Japan more [military] autonomy in the Asian sphere. We can fret about ISIS all we want, but the next big [and I mean big] flare up will be a navel battle between China and Japan. This new policy will give the U.S. a backdoor exit as well as an excuse to not retaliate immediately if there is a skirmish between the two.

  29. Some external brake must be applied to Chinese nationalistic recklessness, especially its super-national territorial claims in the South China Sea.

  30. @Aaron: "This new policy will give the U.S. a backdoor exit as well as an excuse to not retaliate immediately if there is a skirmish between the two."

    The US-Japan mutual defense treaty[1] is still in effect. The treaty was revised in 2015 to "strengthen Japan's role in missile defense, mine sweeping and ship inspections".[2] The Times should have pointed that out to provide context.

    [1] Full name: "Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan"
    [2] In US-Japan Talks, China Is the Elephant in the Room
    By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
    APRIL 27, 2015
    http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2015/04/27/us/ap-us-united-states-japan....

  31. From a different look when the TPP goes into effect in the very near future 13 Nations will be delivering more goods and services from around the Pacific 'ring of fire' so to speak.More will be taking place in the South China Sea via shipping. All countries will use the China Seas to trade with each other. Major 'economical' protection will be needed for those shipping goods...if China feels the need to interfere or chooses (doubtful) to join the TPP. Others should step up also.Australia may be already having a US backed base in northern section of the continent.Japan is doing its part.

    Lets hope however that they will not be asked to go to foreign lands in the futures to fight another's war(s). It would be awesome to live in a world with no wars and only peace for all in it. Wouldn't It? Wouldn't It.

  32. Modern Conservatism is a plague upon the earth- in Japan as elsewhere. The 70 years since the end of World War 2 have seen Japan recover, prosper, become an economic powerhouse, a force for good in the eorld and has done all of this without military adventurism.

    For what good reason would Japan wish to commit it's people to die in other lands?

    It has taken this long because the last people with first hand adult memories of Workd War 2 are gone or in the twilight of their lives. Now that generations have grown up in a society blessed to have been at peace so long, they let some right winger plant the seeds for some future war that will bring nothing but sorrow and heartbreak.

  33. @DG: "For what good reason would Japan wish to commit it's people to die in other lands?"

    The potential "reason[s]" are numerous, but the "other lands" are not. The article explicitly mentions China and North Korea:

    "Mr. Abe argues that Japan needs to play a more active role in the alliance in order to strengthen it against threats like the growing military power of China and a nuclear-armed North Korea."

  34. This bill will strengthen the military tie with the U.S. troops which have played pivotal roles to stabilize the Pacific region. The move is very important for maintain the Japanese security in the view of the aggressive rise of Chinese military. The domestic news media focus on the activities on the opposition parties that consist of left wings including the Japanese Communist party, but the silent majority of Japanese citizens supports the Mr. Abe's government decision.

  35. There was nothing mutual in the decades of defense U.S. foot the bill Japan took a free ride. Remove U.S. Marines from Okinawa let them fend for themselves I do not need a Sony TV or Honda...entitled ingrates

  36. "Remove U.S. Marines from Okinawa . . ."

    The good people of Okinawa would like nothing more. They're sick of the rapes, drunken hit-and-run killings, helicopter crashes, and constant, thunderous noise perpetrated by their self-proclaimed benefactors.

  37. Perfect match - US desire to have someone else shoulder the war burden, Abe's ambition of recovering his ancestor's "glory." The world is getting more dangerous by the day. China and Korea will have to redouble their effort to strengthen their military power. The Philippines and Vietnam can count on their big brother, they think!

    History is repeating itself from the 19th and early 20th centuries. First, Japan became militarily strong, then they start to have illusion of dominating her neighbors, encroaching upon their territories one step at a time, finally a full scale war intent to annex the neighbor. Luckily, today's neighbors are strong enough to defend themselves. We'll see how far this arms race with take us.

  38. Awful — a giant step backward for world peace. Abe should be ashamed for pushing a pro-nuclear, pro-aggression agenda.

    China's encroachment in the South China Sea is no less excusable, but an escalation of tensions is not going to help.

    Japan has constantly been bullied and humiliated but the Japanese people (if not their leaders) have always had the magnanimity to look beyond their victimization to a world that it, well, as peaceful as Japan. (See the extraordinary lack of gun violence, which should be normal).

  39. Sadly the Japanese will soon be sending their sons and daughters to die for nothing in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. But in the last election the Japanese gave the Liberal Democratic Party absolute majorities in both houses of Parliament.

  40. The Japanese will mow down their adversaries.

  41. You forget about the Japanese citizens kidnapped and beheaded by ISIS.

    Japan needs a transnational capability to rescue imperiled citizens elsewhere in the World; something that we possess.

  42. The last election was orchestrated by Shinzo Abe's administration for the maximum advantage for the LDP. When the last election was announced, everyone was puzzled and asking "why now" because there was not a significant agenda which called for an election. It caught the opposition parties off guard and unprepared. Should you like to know the real nature of the last election, you must look into the "Japanese hostages" crisis, which ended up with beheading of the two Japanese nationals in Syria due to the abandonment of "Japanese neutrality" in the middle east. The incidence was prepared and used to stir the public emotion for the benefit of the current administration. The Press and Media were coerced to report the fabricated stories by showing the video prepared 3 months in advance, and the truth was quickly shielded by resorting to the "Patriot Acts" of Japanese version. So, it is a misinterpretation that LDP had a clear electoral mandate from the majority of Japanese people to pass the current laws.

  43. The defensive alliance with Japan has always been a little one-sided. A country that successful and wealthy should be able to look to their own defense, so this seems like a smart move. I really doubt that Japan will follow the US into ground wars in the mid east those fears seem overblown.

  44. The last time Japanese army went overseas, they invaded and occupied most of the countries in Asia including Korea, Manchuria, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indo-china peninsula, Singapore etc. What will they do if they are allowed to foray overseas again? After 40 years of relatively peaceful coexistence among all nations in East Asia, the rearming of Japan will create another arms race and further destabilize the region and exacerbate precarious situation in Southchina Sea.
    The comments by Mr. Furjiwara that “It is America that will get Japan into trouble” may turn out to be a wise prophecy. Japan would have been in the same quagmire (trapped and no end in sight) as the US, had Japan been allowed to send troops to fight in Iraq. Japan should be worried that sometimes another nation’s best interest may not be the same as that of Japan.

  45. The Greater East-Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere is long gone; but not forgotten.

    The Imperial Navy still rusts on the bottom of the Pacific.

  46. The region is already destabilized by PRCs reckless inattention to intl norms and laws: if Japan wants to defend islands it says are their's, so be it. It's time to bring back home the U.S. from Germany and Japan. We NEED a fully rearmed Japan to counter reckless China in the East Asia, and a fully rearmed Germany to counter Russian hegemony in Europe. Let their be new rules to the game of thrones.

  47. This is not a good development for peace in Asia.

  48. I have been sometimes there around the Parliament since July. If you still have the idea that Japanese people have been a collectively submissive and apathetic subject, please see if more and more people will tenaciously respond to the parliament majority’s infringement of the constitutional, democratic and rational process for the railroading of the “collective security” bill. In this request I presuppose that a core of the parliament majority have been deeply rooted in some political cause unconstitutional, undemocratic and irrational. Hence, please see if more and more residents in the Japanese archipelago will critically make clear such a deeply rooted idea they were thought to be submissively committed to in the past or otherwise, as the majority are intending, return to the collective uncritical routine.

  49. With no obligation to abide by McCarthysm for ever, Japan has every right to review its post-war constitution and policy stance, more so when such relook is warranted by its national interests and sovereignty considerations. Amid constant security threats from China and compulsions of securing its economic and maritime commercial interests if Japan acquires a measure of military preparedness, specially when the US afforded security umbrella too can't be taken for granted, what's wrong with that?

  50. Prof. Sharma,

    You are correct, *but* the question is no simply whether Japan should have the means to defend its interests, but also such matters as who is defining those interests and how.

    Some Japanese claims that the current leadership say are vital are not only on shaky grounds legally, but probably wouldn't make the top 100 concerns of most ordinary Japanese ( think Senkaku Islands).

    There is also the matter of what sort of military that Japan should have and its proper relation to civil government. The Japan Self Defense Forces are the lineal descendants of their Imperial predecessors as are the right wing nationalists who have been running things with minimal interruption since the 1950's.

    Japan's neighbors are well aware of this, even if quite a few Japanese are oblivious to it.

    The interests of Japan's people, as opposed to those of its oligarchs, would be best served by armed neutrality on the Swiss or Finnish model. Then no one except potential aggressors would be concerned about Japan having a military.

  51. "McCarthyism"?

    Sen. "Tail-gunner Joe" McCarthy (R-WI) was a leading anti-Communist crusader and rabble-rouser during the 1950's. An unprincipled, alcoholic "Red Baiter", he instigated a series of high-profile congressional investigations of mostly ordinary American citizens that many critics and observers denounced as witch hunts. Some witnesses subpoenaed by his committee were forced to invoke the 5th Amendment because they had belonged to the American Communist Party or its various front groups and organizations two, even three decades earlier. Many others, however, were guilty of nothing more than guilt-by-association, mistaken identity or were victims of unscrupulous secret informers.

    Sloppy detective work and McCarthy's own penchant for hyperbole, personal indiscipline and recklessness ultimately caused him to badly overreach. But before all that could bring him down many innocent Americans were tarred by baseless accusations of disloyalty. Many others had lives and careers ruined merely by appearing before his "Senate Committee on US Government Operations", a political backwater until he turned it into a media circus. Ultimately, he was ruined by that, the unfavorable "Army-McCarthy hearings that concluded with him being censured by the US Senate, and a very public war with "See It Now" journalist Edward R. Murrow watched by millions of viewers on the CBS television network.

    However, postwar Japan and Gen. MacArthur's constitution were not Joe McCarthy's thing.

  52. Professor, you are apparently not aware of the studious delicate balance that the Japanese have until today maintained as a solid mainstay of their foreign policy concerning potential entanglement in the Middle East. Japan at this time has only two hypothetical enemies, China and North Korea which will be conventional, but since you don't read Japanese and you relying on news reports in English, what the Japanese here really fear is being drawn into the terrorism maelstorm of ISIS and having that evil group have an excuse now to launch attacks once the US, now having exhausted its lackey the UK, gladly welcomes Japan as the new cannon fodder. This is not mere gesture of casting off the chains of MacArthur and post war GHQ policy, this man Abe is attempting to exonerate the memory of his Prime Minister Grandfather who was briefly imprisoned by the Americans in 1946-47. Kindly look up Justice Pal and his dissent and you'll see why the Japanese revere him and deplore this day of days.

  53. Abe has been unscrupulous (i.e., grazing the truth) in claiming his distortion of the Constitution is permissible interpretation. It is not, and what the article reveals is significant opposition, most of which strikes me as intelligent and cogent. The big elephant in the room is CHINA, and what we are witnessing is US active support for Japanese militarism as part of the Obama integrated strategy in the Far East: namely the Trans-Pacific Partnership to contain and isolate China, and Pacific-first strategy backed by battle-carrier groups in those waters.

    Japan was doing so well from an economic standpoint before this move by Abe for what amounts to as the militarization of capitalism. Critics on the Left ironically are stating a favorable view of capitalism when allowed to operate in a climate of international peace. Abe is the new Hirohito, dangerous to his own country and to the world; worse still, he is being egged on, behind the scenes, by America.

  54. Democracy has been losing credibility for a fundamental reason. In both developing and developed countries, democracy means political elites taking turn to run the country to preserve privileges of a few.

    More damaging, democracy in a highly organized society like Japan means taking decisions against the will of the majority. In this case, changing the constitution to allow deployment of combat troops in foreign soil.

  55. And on queue, he comes the trumped up Chinese virtiol.

  56. Time for the seeds of Democracy to take root in Japan and ( Quite Frankly in Germany Too ) . If we say that they are what they are, then WE and the World should have no Fear of Japan being involved as a Major Player for World Stability.If anything as a Basis Counterweight to China.

  57. Some people seem to be ignorant of the actual state of affairs. Here's a couple of facts to set the record straight.

    (1) Japan had always been able to lawfully defend itself. Japan maintains a Self Defense Force for that purpose. This law has nothing to do with self-defense. It authorizes Japanese troops for OVERSEAS combat missions.

    (2) Japan's military, despite being named Self-Defense Force, is actually the 7th best funded military in the world. It is ahead of India, Germany, South Korea, and even Israel in funding.

    In other words, Japan never lacked the ability to defend itself, not unless you define "self-defense" as creatively as the likes of George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin.

  58. Somehow, it doesn't feel like the world needs another country itching for war.

  59. It's not a country itching for war. It's a right-wing prime minister eager to vindicate the reputation of his disgraced grandfather -- and, like his grandfather, ignoring Japanese popular anger in order to please the United States.

    What the world really doesn't need is a US so intent on its own self-interest that it pressures its allies to ignore the basics of constitutionalism, and to run roughshod over both popular and juristic opinion.

  60. You have to love the way this article is written. "Japan has Japan has accepted American protection for ever since the end of the United States’ occupation..." A more accurate description would be that the US accepted unconditional surrender at the end of WWII, invaded and occupied Japan, and continues to occupy it today, imposing its protection. The treaties signed after WWII provide permanent bases to the US in Japan. Ultimately, this change will force Japanese soldiers to join US forces somewhere, and not before long, to establish precedent. After that, Japan will continue to due the bidding of the US, which will include participation in our military actions. The Japanese people have every right to be upset.

  61. Didn't Japan do the exact same thing to most of Asia during WW2? If the U.S. didn't do what it did, we would be facing a Japanese Asian domination, rather than a possible China one. On the other hand, just as Germany was allowed to reunify, and return to the world stage, without consequence, so too should Japan.

  62. Wrong wrong wrong - Japan were a major threat in Asia/Pacific and due to the desire to maintain the operation of the country the allies couldn't afford to lock up all the right-wing militarists. Hence the need for continual protection of Asia and the pacific from Japanese rebuilding.
    Japan needed to be occupied to rebuild and change its society. Japan owes its current success to the presence of the US in the 50's. Read a history book. Don't be swayed by your friendly Japanese friends, I lived in Japan for 20 years and completed my masters in this period of Japanese history - you need to read a few more books on the subject.

  63. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it seems to make sense, on the surface, that the world's third largest economy would take a more active role not only in world political affairs but also for their own defense. As it stands they are nearly wholly dependent on the deterrent force of the USA for their security, their defense force being anemic at best. ON THE OTHER HAND, the pacifist constitution of Japan was put in place for a reason, that being to curtail the militaristic instincts that have historically been part of Japanese culture. Times change, to be sure, but I get a sense that the Japanese themselves are uncomfortable with unleashing this newfound military freedom. Bottom line is that the issue is much more complex than it appears on the surface and it will be interesting to see how events evolve over the next year or 2 and when/where Japan ends up exercising it's military.

  64. I totally agree - while japan has had the freedom to build itself economically due to the protection America has provided a sense of arrogance in Japanese superiority has grown as a result of economic success. This has led many commentators to agree on one point - Japan need to enter an actual conflict and see what is at risk if they are to be truly global citizens.
    On the other hand, militarism that is common-place in a country that has lost its identity and relies on romanticised versions of its history (only 3% were actually samurai) to give them strength.

  65. Japan has been moving in this direction for almost 50 years. When Prime Minister Nakasone in the 1980s suggested an extremely mild version of Abe's legislation he was met with ferocious opposition. With a new generation that remembers nothing about World War II and is more worried about the economy, the right wing has finally established its goal of --and this will not be the limits of what will be pushed in the future. The "cooperative" aspect of Japanese troops overseas with American interests could be greatly modified in the future.

    I still expect some push back from the Japanese peace movement--as was seen in the Parliamentary tactics to delay the vote, but the trajectory going forward is for a much more militarized Japan. Te best litmus test of this will be the Korean Press who has long held negative--almost apoplectic--attitudes toward "Japanese ambitions."

  66. I guess in Japan, an "evolving constitution" doesn't always evolve towards the left. Ginsberg and Breyer should take note.

    Anyway, good job by the Japanese government. It's about time they take their destiny into their own hands. China will be a major threat to Japan in the coming decades-- as it will be to most other Asian nations-- and it looks like the small island nation has woken up and smelled the coffee: the U.S. might not be there to protect you since it's becoming increasingly indebted to confront China on a variety of issues.

  67. That presents a scary scenario for the rest of Asia as Japan's right wing looks to regain past glories. After living in Japan for 20 years I can tell you unfortunately, this is a real possibility.

  68. It is not Abe, it is Obama. The opposition pacifist PM that was elected a few years ago lost the re-election because Obama refuse to move the US base in Okinawa to another part of the island which the Japanese have asked for for 20 years. Obama have stroke the flame that's Japanese right-wing against the wish of most Japanese because he needs someone on the west side of the Pacific to country China because the US Navy and his Pivot to Asia plan is falling through.

  69. The time has finally come for both Japan and Germany to fully re-arm, implement a fully mobile armed forces capable of projecting into foreign territories, and for the U.S. to dramatically scale down its presence in Japan and Europe, by closing key bases there. Let China deal with a Japan with a naval power reconstituted to the levels prior to WW2, and vice verse. Japan's wants the Spratleys? Then defend them. Let the U.S. transition away from world policeman to world arbiter role.

  70. I fully disagree - as someone who lives in the South pacific and has lived in Japan for 20 years I would worry that Japan would try and fill the vacuum of power that a lack of American bases would present. Japan still has a number of right wing politicians and it would be a scary prospect to have a fully armed unpoliced Japanese army and/or navy. They are dangerous.

  71. This article underplays that the constitutionality question is important in the view of a big proportion of *Japanese people,* not just legal experts and "Mr. Abe's critics."

    It also incorrectly makes it appear that the issues are only fear of war or distrust of America.

    Many also fear what would happen if a massive natural disaster were to hit Japan while members of the Self-Defense Force were deployed in the Middle East, say.

    And many, perhaps most, who oppose the legislation understand that the constitution allows Japan to fight in its self-defense, and that it might need to someday. Their point is that any clarification of the scope of self-defense has to be accomplished by constitutional amendment -- not by legislation or the government's "reinterpretation." For these numerous opponents of the legislation the key point is the fear of the breakdown of *constitutionalism and rule of law* -- and that these laws are just the foot in the door before something much worse.

    BTW, lest anyone claim that the Japanese voted for the Abe-led LDP-Komeito coalition, they're wrong: 60% of votes cast in the last two elections were *against* the coalition. It's Japan's undemocratic election law that allowed them to win a ⅔-majority.

    Bad enough that the Times misunderstands the issues -- but it's disgusting that in a moderated forum like this, the Times allows disparaging remarks about Godzilla and kamikaze. Would they do the same about any other country? Show some respect.

  72. After decades of pacifism, the Japanese could have stood the moral high ground. Talking about atavism ... tragic!

  73. It has been 70 years since the last engagement of
    Japan in combat. Too long. It is time to have another
    big one in Asia.Those rocks in south China sea
    is the good place to start one.

  74. Policy-wise, in light of China's and North Korea's clearly ambitious agendas, this is probably not a bad move. For Japanese to assert that they are inherently "peace loving" when they have hosted 40,000 or more deterrent American troops with bases and fighter planes and ships for 65+ years is to be blind to reality. It sure is easy to be "peace loving" when you've been protected your entire life. That all said, it is not a good sign when pretty much everyone with any legal or intellectual know-how considers this quite unconstitutional.

  75. It was inevitable.

    China brought this on itself.

  76. One more Obama legacy, the end of the US military umbrella

    the world is now a more dangerous place, in one more corner

    about that Nobel Peace prize....

  77. Japan needs to arm up against China.
    Problem is China would win any conflict other than a Nuke war (which no one wins).
    So Japan is really just wasting money.

  78. And I wonder whom exactly Japan is going to fight against abroad - Russia, China or both? I guess it won't succeed against both of them even if fighting one by one.

  79. It has defeated both China and Russia in the past.

  80. “There’s this assumption that it’s America that will get Japan into trouble, when it could just as easily be the other way around.” The American security umbrella in Asia stretches from South Korea to Japan; for what purpose? Isn't it in the interest of these allies to expend sufficient resources to defend their countries?

    Japan has serious territorial issues with Russia in its north and China to the south. Yet, sans US power, it has none of the capability to challenge either. A country with the world's third largest GDP should be able to protect its interests without begging US support. Japan is a democracy and a valued ally; but a lot of its economic success is credited to the free ride the US gave it since the end of WWII and at destructive cost to our own economy.

    Instead of being concerned the US should welcome and encourage Japan's rightful security investment as a counter to Russia and China and a lessening of US dependence.

  81. I'm not sure Abe can be trusted to be a good player, actually I doubt he is- but it makes sense for Japan to let its overpowering neighbour know that Tokyo would not be just passive in case China or any other makes a tactical move abroad, that would have strategic consequences for Japan.
    It's like in any strategic game: knowing one is able to reach you will calm you down.
    In this matter, projection is half of the move, so Japan, in the most troublesome part of the world, had to to be able to say: I can reach you

  82. You must be kidding me! Asia doesn't need to be told by Japan that "I can reach you". It is still fresh in many people's memory that horrific "reaching"! Do you know history or history of the Asian people is not that important to American self-interest?!

  83. If it is to protect “the lives and survival of the Japanese nation.” the law makes sense. Awaiting any potential enemy to set foot on Japanese soil before defending it will too late.

    I truly understand Japan's fears of trusting any CIA claims of "intelligence" that have politically white-washed by the US war hawks. The world doesn't need another Iraqi style war.

  84. Anytime you alter your laws to facilitate militarism, you wound your soul.

  85. US shoul make all the efforts to have better relations with China rather than depending Japan in the regional recurity. Supporting Japan in sharing the military power in the resion will only create conflicts. This will eventually empower and encourage Japan to envision to become military super power someday. That will not be good for American either.

  86. The opposition is right, a war criminal like Bush will come along and drag them into an unjust war.

  87. On its face this vote is a welcome one for the U.S., as it contributes to the containment of China. In coming decades containing China will prove to be the number one foreign policy goal of the United States.

    On the other hand, it's questionable how well the Japanese will fight in any future conflict. Has their martial spirit, which undoubtedly existed before 1945, been sapped by decades of pacifism and prosperity?

  88. This legislation requires a change in Japan's constitution. Prime Minister Abe is acting similarly to how George W Bush rode roughshod over the Geneva Conventions to torture prisoners and spied on all of the USA's domestic communications without a court order--in direct violation of the then FISA laws.

    This change benefits America's Industrial War Complex and now Japan's. The real system dynamics inherent to this change would be an escalation in weaponry and personnel. Let's not forget that there are powerful non apologetic Japanese who truly want to return to their WWII glory days.

    The painful memories and bitterness of many Asians against Japan are real and only plays into increased tensions in Asia. Ultimately this does not bode well for Asia.

  89. You can take the Samuri out of the war, but can't take the war out of the Samuri. It was in the late 1800s, the United States trained the Japanese Emperor's armies. The Samuri system was virtually eliminated, as a "cost" for this training.

    Not soon, thereafter, Japan invaded Korea and annexed it (1905). Setting into motion their imperial views which would eventually lead to Japan invading China, most of southeast Asia, Pacific Islands and attacking Pearl Harbor. Mostly under Togo, with the blessing of the Emperor. It took countless lives, and two Atomic bombs, to end this war 70 years ago.

    Part of the peace treaty was to make sure Japan will never be a threat. All nations, which the Japanese subjugated, want to keep it that way. With limited resources, in Japan, it will be only a matter of time that Japanese nationalists bring out the Samuri again.

    As fro Abe, he inspires to Japanese nationalism and wants to bring back the trapping of Tojo and the Samuri. This man could bring about destabilization in the region. The US may have more problems on their hands, than just China and North Korea.

    Right now, Beijing, Taipei, Seoul and Pyongyang are watching this very closely.

    There are still people alive who remember the Japanese horrors of WWII. Lest we forget.

  90. japan certainly had a nasty history during the first half of the last century and paid a dear price for it in the end. the country has also has a problem truly accepting responsibility--unlike Germany--for its actions. however, I would say that region fears china a lot more than japan. the Chinese have disputes going on with more countries than now in the region. finally you have a unique way of spelling samurai....

  91. This is creative history writing at its finest.

    Japan had watched what European powers, mainly Britain, had done to China and were greatly alarmed. Following Germany's defeat of France in the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War, Japan sent its young men to Germany to learn its system of government and use it as a model to modernize Japan's government and industry before Europe and/or the US could do to it what Britain had done to China. Japan succeeded brilliantly. It learned the joys of empire-building from Europe, not the United States.

    It also absorbed the ideas of Social Darwinism, which was then prevalent in Germany. The strongest survive. Either conquer or be conquered. Living together in peace is not an option. That was the source of Japan's imperial policy, which it began practicing in Korea, not China. Look up First Sino-Japanese War in Wikipedia. 1894-95.

    And the samurai tradition was not close to being dead.

  92. "samurai..." Togo was an admiral in the war with Russia in 1904 and 1905.

  93. Abe and his cohorts, and more importantly the elite pulling their strings are all about oligarchy (with themselves in charge, of course) and are ideologically barely distinguishable from the militarists that preceded them and this is certainly also the case with the leadership of the Japan Self Defense Forces.

    Japan has as much right as any country to a military, but Japan's neighbors and its people are right to be wary of having the sort of military that Japan's right wing nationalists would like to acquire.

    If Japan's opposition parties were a) smart and b) (far more problematic) willing to cast off ideological baggage and cooperate with one another, they would outflank the LDP by proposing a citizen's army along Swiss lines - with only a relatively tiny professional core and the bulk of the military consisting of the armed, organized and trained adult population of the country.

    A country-wide distributed defense and command structure would preclude the high command being able to dominate civil government, would almost certainly be cheaper than a conventional professional military, would not be viewed with alarm by Japan's neighbors and would (again almost certainly) be far more effective than what they have currently at actually defending Japanese territory militarily if that eventuality were to arise.

    Japan does face threats, foreign and domestic. An engaged, organized and armed citizenry prepared to fight if necessary is Japan's best bet to avoid ever having to.

  94. Having watched rhetorics, obvious lies, and meaninglessly benevolent Q&As at congressional sessions on this war bill during this 5 month period, It is not too exaggerating to say that our Democracy and institutions that govern Japanese political system, moreover lawmakers themselves, are way too immature and irresponsible to the social environment of this country as the consequence of their political decision. But who needs to be blamed most are majority of voters who have been politically indifferent and have continued to give almost free hands to lawmakers since the birth of our Constitution and our illusionary "Democracy" many of us belived that our Pacifism stands with them. Japan has now become a deeply troubled, belligerent nation ready to fight and the danger will only get worse through generations ahead allowing future lawmakers to trigger international disputes if we don't wake up and enlighten sleeping politically indifferent people to prevent it.

  95. What this article crucially does not mention is that the vast majority of ordinary Japanese are not just worried about being dragged into another far away military industrial complex driven US military adventure. They are, as reported in the Irish Times, "concerned that new defence guidelines with America, agreed this year, will drag Tokyo into a conflict with China - at US behest." Most Asians even in Japan want nothing to do with what they see as the US's panicky and misguided attempts to "contain" China and increase military tensions in the region. Wanting to use the US as a counterpoint to China's rising power and buying into the reckless and ill thought out US Pacific Pivot and remilitarising Asia and the destabilisation it will bring are two very different things. Asians are quite capable of differentiating the two. They have also seen what US involvement has done for the Middle East and Northern Africa and would like to avoid that kind of "help" if they could. They are quite capable of negotiating settlements and dealing with their major trading partners peacefully in everyone's interests. (See the AESEAN statement on this very issue.) But what does it matter what the Japanese public think? There are arms and weapons systems manufacturers who want new markets. The Pacific Pivot goals of militarising Asia and creating a flush new market for the merchants of death is going swimmingly.

  96. The passage of the security bills is deeply troubling. First, it signals the end of the postwar pacifism that has served Japan's and its neighbors’ interests well. Second, even though the Abe administration has argued the security legislation is necessary for deterrence, its passage may actually embolden Japan’s potential enemies and pose a greater threat to Japanese citizens in, around, and far beyond Japanese territories. Third, the Abe government has also argued that the legislation will strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance but ironically it may weaken the public support for the alliance because a vast majority of the public are opposed to the new bills and the re-interpretation of the peace clause (Article 9) of their constitution, on which the legislation is based, and 90% of constitutional lawyers, including a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, regard the constitutional re-interpretation and new law as unconstitutional. Many Japanese are convinced that the Abe administration is unduly accommodating the pressure and interests of an economically and morally declining United States. This view has been in the background of the nation-wide demonstrations against the government’s action, and it has resonated strongly with pre-war, wartime, and post-war generations of Japanese. Who is to say that Abe and other nationalists and younger generations of Japanese, armed with mighty military power, will not one day pursue a policy that is not necessarily in U.S. interests?

  97. Much has changed since Japan was forced to shun militarism and embrace pacifism under McCarthysm, even the post-war security umbrella extended by the US needs repair at some cost to Japan. Under the circumstances, specially amid constant security threat from China on territorial disputes, if Shinzo Abe is trying to acquire a measure of military preparedness to defend its sovereignty and secure its vital commercial and maritime interests, the issue shouldn't be blown out of proportions, as Japan is simply doing what other modern independent states do to secure their existence and interests without being aggressive and threatening to others.

  98. The new law is structured so that Japan can come to the aid of its allies in the event that the allies are attacked by hostile forces, or that there is a serious threat to the survival of Japan.

    Under this new rule, Japan would have been justified in jumping into the Vietnam War after the United States reported it had been attacked by North Vietnamese forces in the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. They would also have been justified in jumping into the invasion of Iraq on the basis of Weapons of Mass Destruction which the United States asserted were in the possession of Saddam Hussein and posed a dire threat to the entire world.

    Of course, both of these assertions were totally false, but fortunately Japan was still respecting its Peace constitution. But now, a warmonger, who has shown no respect for the peaceful desires of the Japanese people, is at the helm of the Japanese government. Which American fiasco will draw Japan into the next war?

  99. Abe just doomed his own political future and with it Japan's hopes of pulling out its decades-long economic doldrums. The Japanese voters tolerated him only because they had high hopes for his economic stimulus policy. But "quantitative easing" in Japan will take much longer to increase consumer spending than it took in the U.S., because the Japanese consumer is inherently much more financially conservative than the American consumer.

    With this politically obtuse move, Abe, along with those in the U.S. government who were pressing for it, has ensured that he will not remain in power nearly long enough to see his economic policy bear fruit. Too bad.

  100. As a Japanese living in Tokyo, I am very saddened by the passage of this law since Pacifism, learnt through our bitter defeat in WWII, was the idea which I could feel most proud about our country. The principle is similar to the philosophy of "Ahimsa" advocated by Gandhi. The backing of Japanese assertiveness by the US may have short term cost benefits, but I feel it has increased the chances of US being dragged in an armed conflict in Eastern Asia. Moreover, the fundamental view of Abe and the LDP is that we should return to the former glory of the Japanese Empire with denunciation of democracy and basic human rights -- seen as foreign idea imposed on Japan by the US. Backing a government with such view would seem very bad for longterm US foreign policy.

  101. Some things never seem to change. In the midst of economic stagnation, declining birth rates and a sense of social malaise Japan's leaders turn to a time honored diversion--nationalism. This tactic has historically been designed to encourage a people to look outward at a so called threatening world around them rather than inward as the source of social and economic problems.

    It seems only the opposition remembers the tragic results the last time Japan sought its place in the world through a military build up. The US has of course been pushing this issue for years. US interests are simple, if Japan is to be a trusted US ally they have to start paying for American adventurism in the world. Watch carefully. The next US move will be to urge Vietnam to do the same. The rational there will be Chinese advancement of claims to the South China Sea oil reserves.

    As with Russia, the US is seeking to encircle China not simply with allies, but with allies united in a military alliance. Hopefully the Vietnamese and South Korean's will see through this fools errand and awaken the Japanese people to it as well.

  102. Obama encouraged this move.
    An arms race in the western Pacific is great for our economy.
    Under his leadership, the US is truly Number One in arms sales.
    New US bases are sprouting up around the world.
    Who misses Kissinger? The sun doesn't set on The Empire.
    Any dare compare our military spending to our funding for schools and healthcare?
    Betcha it t'aint a pretty sight.

  103. It's a little sad to see a nation that was once renowned for its warriors reduced to hiding behind the mantra of 'pacificism at all costs'. Military action must always be the last resort but it is entirely necessary in this world to have the means and ability to defend one's interests from aggressors. I would suggest the Japanese consider the wisdom behind another mantra: "Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it". I consider Japan to be among the good guys and in this world we need all the good guys in the fight that we can get. I applaud Mr Abe for grasping the nettle and taking a decision which could not have been easy. I just hope they have evolved somewhat as a nation and that should the situation arise, I sincerely hope they will treat their prisoners of war with compassion. Same goes for anyone.

  104. Japan is a funny place.

    Technically speaking it is a democracy, but it's a one-party state because most Japanese, in spite of their love for a mixture of tradition and modernity, have never come to accept the possibility of political change.

    And although the Japanese are some of the most educated people on the planet, one day Japanese parents will wake up and ask themselves, Why did we vote to throw away the lives of our sons and daughters on senseless, unwinnable conflicts in places like Afghanistan and Iraq?

  105. I love the idea of a American Soldier and a Japanese Soldier fighting along side each other. We need all the help we can get; because, we are in the midst the Third World War. China and Russia are taking advantage of our preoccupation with The Middle East. We will never stop either from expanding at our expense, unless the Japanese People start investing some blood and gold to help realign the power balance in the region. Japan needs to put its men and women in the trenches and join the fight in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq too. It is time that America, England, Australia, Canada and New Zealand get some reinforcements from Japan, Germany and France, so we can show there terrorists, the Russians and the Chinese that we mean to win, and they better join in with us or else they are against us.

  106. Another disturbing development in East Asia and another US-fueled blow to peace.
    Careful observers of the region have duly noted that the (peace laureate...) Obama administration has walked out of its way to isolate China and prevent any peaceful arrangement in the Far East: it has pointedly excluded China from the transpacific trade agreement, while demanding shockingly the fast track procedure for it; it has unnecessarily expanded its military presence and cooperation in Australia, drafting contingency plans for a possible attack to China since as far back as 2009; it is building another major military base in South Korea; it has bullied, blackmailed and sabotaged in any way it could political leaders who where seeking a peaceful engagement with China, such as the previous prime minister of Japan and Australia; and now the crowning achievement of a long diplomatic pressure, the break down of Japan's 70 years old pacifism, which will only result in enhanced tension in the region. I'm still waiting for the genius to explain why Obama was able to pull a grand bargain for Iran, only at the end of his presidency, while preventing the same outcome in the Far East at every cost. Abe, an ultra-nationalist, obviously has his own agenda. But the Obama administration, with its considerable leverage on the country, shares enormous responsibility for this. History will tell.

  107. Given the instability in the Middle East, the refugee crisis in Europe and now this tension in the Pacific, it is apparent that all of the elements for World War III are now in place.

  108. My condolences to the families of the soon-to-be casualties. It's unfortunate that Abe won't be the first to wade into whatever "war" he gets Japan into.

  109. Being a "passive" nation is no longer an option to main security... A nation must also be able to demonstrate to potential aggressors, they have the will, fortitude and ability to be a strong "offensive" military force....

  110. It's about time our allies start shouldering more of the burden of blood and treasure in out shared security.

  111. This seems wrong. It has an eery to Americas build up to Iraq. Their constitution says this is illegal. Everyone likes their 'Godzilla' self defense policy. Quite frankly, I don't mind supporting Japan with troops. I think it is culturally and strategically important.

    China has been bullying them on islands to the south, they dispute rights to islands in the north with Russia. This maybe just saber rattling but it's still dangerous. There are still people living who remember WWII atrocities. If something loud happens in the region, I am sure Japan will galvanize and mobilize. Otherwise, lets let their dragon sleep for at least a century or two.

  112. The `Liberal Democractic Party` is a sophisticated, well-oiled machine of anonymity, run by backroom folks that never see the light of day in the column inches--Shinzo Abe, his predecessors including Shintaro Abe and Nobosuke Kishi, have all significantly benefitted from deciding their own fate.

    Japan has a choice of participating politically, it was just too late for LDP`s juggernaut to stop...they`ve got the Tokyo Olympics 2020 coming up, an aging population, nuclear fallout. I always say, let`s just make Yamaguchi Prefecture (Abe`s regional homeland where he and his wife, Akie, both are from) a place to store nuclear waste--and build a nuclear reactor in Tokyo...and both of the biggest issues that divide citizens will quickly be (fairly) resolved.

    The entity formerly known as Japanese Self-Defense Force (the entire area around its HQ, in Tokyo`s Shinjuku ward, near Ichigaya Station has been renamed `Ministry of Defense` with its signage all around the area since seven years ago) are not really going to train an army and conquer the world as it did a century ago...more realistically, they`ll just expand its military spending, as an exercise to appease their right-wing constituents.

    Defense contracts will line the pockets of corporate paymasters and political connects that the LDP has entrenched itself with for generations...this is how business is done in Japan. It`s all for the money.

    The Showa-era political and business figures in Japan just want a last hurrah

  113. "“Japan is caught between fear of entanglement and fear of abandonment,” said Tsuneo Watanabe, a senior fellow at the Tokyo Foundation, a policy research group. “It’s partly about public distrust of Japan’s own government. People think Japanese leaders are too weak to say no to the U.S.”

    Mr. Watanabe's assessment is a powerful message and may be an indirect message of how the Japanese government needs to move toward an offensive strategy to bolster "self-defense" due to how the Obama Administration's foreign policies have been unraveling and undermining the security of other nations .......

  114. From now the peace in East-Asia disappeared!! Japan will certainly invade other conturies!! This is Obama administration's mistake!! Armed Japan will be more dangerous than N.Korea or China to U.S & Western. History is repeating itself. U.S government should not forget the Pacific War and Pear harbor!

  115. “The day when two army corps can annihilate each other in one second, all civilized nations, it is to be hoped, will recoil from war and discharge their troops.”

  116. Nothing could be more uplifting to me than knowing a building full of ISIS commanders were slaughtered at night by a small band katana wielding latter day samurai.

  117. It is a sad day for Japan.