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People's Daily Online

Japan's upper house starts debate on contentious war bills amid plunging support for Abe gov't

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 17:03, July 27, 2015

TOKYO, July 27 -- Japan's upper house of parliament on Monday began discussions on a package of controversial security bills that, if enacted, will allow for the nation's Self-Defense Forces to have an expanded role abroad, despite an ongoing public backlash that has seen hundreds of thousands took to the streets in protests.

The contentious legislation was forced through the lower house of parliament on July 16 by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition bloc, as opposition parties left the lower chamber in protest against the bills and boycotted the vote.

The steamrolling of the bills through the lower house drew outrage from the public, of which, according to recent polls, 80 percent do not feel they have received sufficient explanation about the war bills and more than 60 percent are ardently opposed to the bills that could see Japanese forces drawn into active conflicts alongside its allies like the United States, in a reversal of Japan's pacifist leanings since the end of World War II and in contravention to the war-renouncing Article 9 of the constitution, that the bills seek to 'reinterpret' into law.

In a plenary session of the upper house, a special committee heard Monday that deliberations between governing and opposition parties will begin in earnest on Tuesday and while it was noted the controversial bills have failed to gain public approval or understanding, the upper house session will purportedly allow enough time to answer the public's concerns and questions.

However, some opposition party members remain adequate that the nature of trying to steamroll bills into law by thwarting the constitution and ignoring public sentiment, will never be understood by the public here, no matter how much the government tries to explain, and such a method of governance is increasingly angering the public and alienating Abe from his electorate, as evidenced by his support rate plummeting to below the 40 percent threshold recently for the first time since he took office in 2012.

Nevertheless, Abe told the upper house session Monday that the new security legislation was indispensable and intimated that there may be situations whereby Japan's forces are required to respond with force.

'The government bears a responsibility to assume every kind of situation and be prepared to make a seamless response. The legislation for peace and security is indispensable for fulfilling such a responsibility,' the prime minister was quoted as saying.

The start of the deliberations in the upper house Monday came on the heels of Japan releasing its annual defense white paper last week, which some notable Asia Pacific commentators and defense analysts said that along with recent bellicose moves from the Foreign Ministry here, has served to hype up a perceived threat in the region and catalyze a 'culture of fear' as means for Abe's government to justify the war bills and bolster the nation's military clout as public fear is manipulated into support for the bills.

Opposition lawmakers and leading experts on constitutional law have on numerous occasions pointed out to the ruling bloc that the bills which seek to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense are unconstitutional, but even if the bills are rejected by the upper house, or the opposition parties again boycott the vote within 60 days, the bills will be sent back to the more powerful lower chamber to be voted on, where the ruling coalition holds more than a two-thirds majority and can pass the bills thusly.

Katsuya Okada, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, said Monday that he hopes to rally more support from the public to put pressure on Abe to withdraw the bills that have served to hollow out and make a mockery of Japan's constitution and the nation's democratic ideals, as Abe unilaterally gave assurance to Washington during a summit there earlier this year, that the legislation would be passed and Japan could augment its military role for the U.S., before the bills had been fully debated in the lower house and found to be unconstitutional and against public opinion.

Other opposition lawmakers on Monday took aim at the ruling coalition, arguing that further reinterpretations of the constitution could accelerate the prime minister's plans to remilitarize Japan, and could see Japan join wars of aggression with other countries aside from the U.S. and revert to pre-war conscription in a bid to forcefully boost the size of Japan's military.

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