Thousands of anti-war protesters gathered outside the Japanese parliament in Tokyo to protest against a new security bill that allows its military to engage in conflicts abroad for reasons other than self-defense.
More than 37,000 protesters, including members of four opposition parties, reportedly joined the rally on Tuesday.
Footage from Ruptly shows protesters shouting through megaphones and holding signs reading “oust the Abe administration” and “we don’t condone war”. The protest was organized by the Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALD).
The legislation was approved in December and went into force on Tuesday. It allows the military to engage in action overseas, defending allies who come under attack. A pacifist constitution, signed by Japan after its defeat in World War II, had previously banned the use of force as a means by which to settle international disputes.
Opposition parties claim the law is a violation of the constitution, and say they plan to campaign for the legislation to be repealed in an upper house election scheduled for July.
Supporters of the controversial law, which was passed by the lower house of the Japanese parliament in September 2015, include Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, who say it is needed to improve international cooperation of armed forces.
“[We] can now help each other during emergency situations,” Abe told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday. “The bond of the alliance has been strengthened.”
“The security environment surrounding our country is increasingly severe,” Abe told reporters after the parliamentary session. “In a world where no one nation can defend itself on its own, this legislation will help prevent wars.”
At an upper house budget committee session on Monday, Abe specifically emphasized the need to cooperate with the US on missile defense, as North Korea extends its range of missiles.
However, a Tuesday survey by Yomiuri newspaper found that 47 percent of Japanese voters did not approve of the changes to the constitution, while 38 percent did. This is compared to the 58 percent who opposed the legislation in September, versus 31 percent who approved.A separate survey by Nikkei business daily found that 35 percent said the legislation should be repealed, while 43 percent said it should remain in place.
The legislation’s passage comes as tensions continue to rise over territory in the South China Sea, where China has a growing military presence. Tokyo has expressed opposition to Beijing’s construction of bases in disputed areas of the sea. In addition, Japan and China are also in a long-running row over ownership of the Senkaku islands in the East China Sea.
In an online commentary, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency accused “warlord” Prime Minister Abe of threatening peace in the region following the Tuesday passage, calling Tokyo a “pawn of the United States.” It added that the new law will “only serve to endanger the Japanese public’s right to live in peace.”[Source: RT]