Japan PM Shinzo Abe ignores his own people with his security legislation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 July, 2015, 2:03am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 July, 2015, 1:37pm

The security legislation that has passed its first hurdle in the Japanese parliament has many detractors, within and outside the nation. They are right to worry: If approved by the upper house, the two bills would allow Japan to go into battle, even if there was no direct threat to the nation or its people. In having it forcefully pushed through, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ignored a population that is deeply wedded to pacifism and the concerns of China, South Korea and other countries that are yet to receive an apology for invasion, occupation and second world war aggression. There is every reason for the debate that has so far been lacking to take place.

Control of both houses of parliament by Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party and coalition partner Komeito makes approval of the laws seem likely. But such ability does not mean that views and popular opinion can be ignored. The nationalist leader wants what he calls a "normalisation of Japan's military posture" through reinterpreting the pacifist constitution so that the Self-Defence Forces can have a broader military role. A reinterpretation was necessary as a constitutional change would require a referendum that would surely have been lost.

Abe wants the bills approved so that his country can stand on its own feet militarily. The US, which has been the guarantor of Japan's security since the end of the war 70 years ago, is as eager for the sake of its rebalancing towards Asia; both nations have rival China in their sights. With history in mind, China and South Korea are understandably worried about a change in the Japanese military stance from defensive to offensive. Their concerns are justified: how can a country that refuses to acknowledge its past be trusted?

There is palpable anger among opposition politicians and Japanese with the arrogant manner in which Abe and his supporters have handled the laws. The upper house's mission is to allow cautious and thoughtful debate; that has to now take place. Many issues related to the legislation have to be fully discussed, among them claims that the changes are unconstitutional and the circumstances under which collective self-defence, as it is called, can occur.

Despite the concerns about possible conflict, hopefully China and Japan will not slide towards confrontation. The sides are continuing to talk: Abe's top foreign policy adviser began a three-day trip to Beijing on Thursday. Discussion, negotiations and debate are what is most needed at this time.