LAST July, the lower house of the Diet, Japan’s parliament, passed a package of security bills sponsored by the Liberal Democratic Party government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. After two months of debates and near-physical confrontations among lawmakers in parliament, and on the streets outside massive protest marches mainly of student and worker groups, the necessary passage of these bills by the Diet’s upper house finally happened on Saturday morning.
It was a victory for Mr. Abe, whose zealous push for the passage of these laws has caused him a steep fall in popularity.
That doesn’t mean the bills become enforceable laws at once. Six months would have to pass before that.
Opponents of these laws have, as expected, vowed to challenge their constitutionality in court. And if the usual slow pace of the legal process applies, then it could be years before the Supreme Court rules—and the decision could very well be to kill these security laws for being unconstitutional.
What these laws would do is change Japan from the pacifist, anti-war state that it is now, which is what the Japanese constitution has ordained that country to be all these 70 years after the end of World War II.
What happens if these laws are enforced?
Implementation of these laws would allow Japan’s powerful military, which is called the Self-Defense Force or SDF, to cease being the avowedly passive and self-defense machinery that it is now as ordained by the constitution.
The laws will allow Japan’s SDF soldiers to join the United States—and other friendly and allied nations like the Philippines—in fighting an attacking armed enemy, even if Japan itself is not directly under attack. Japan’s military would also be able to participate with less restraints in peacekeeping operations under the United Nations.
Under the new laws, if they are made enforceable, Japan would be able to use more muscle in fulfilling its security responsibilities called for by its security treaty with the United States–and with such countries as the Philippines. Under the terms of the US-Japan military alliance, the US is duty-bound to protect Japan if it comes under attack, and vice-versa. But the alliance has never been tested in the other direction. In his US visit last April 26-May 3, PM Abe had promised to repeal the old laws about the deployment of SDF troops abroad to support the US and other allies.
These laws could also lead to angrier words between Japan and China about their disputes over the Senkaku Islands and waters around them.
And, based on how our President B S Aquino has behaved vis-à-vis China on one hand and Japan on the other, he could be expected to speak more petulantly against China about its continuing disregard of our sovereignty in the West Philippines Sea.
We pray everything turns out for the good of all in this matter of Japan’s future emergence as a fully sovereign and normal military power.