07/15/2015, 00.00
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Abe administration successfully passes “militarist” bill in lower house

For PIME superior, "Given Japan’s history and context, this [bill] could be a real problem”. Some 20,000 people protest against watering down Article 9. The upper house now has 60 days to approve the bill or send it back to the lower house.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) - The protest "shows that the most people do not want this legislation,” said Fr Mario Bianchin regional superior of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions in Japan.

“The Church has expressed itself several times on the issue, and reiterates its opposition,” he told AsiaNews, on the margins of a protest that took place today in Tokyo against new legislation that would further water down Article 9 of the Japanese constitution.

The event was organised by "Senso sasenai, kyujo kowasuna! Sogakari kodo jikko iinkai" (Committee for all-out action: No war, don't destroy Article 9!).

Opposition lawmakers and others took to the stage at the Hibiya Open-Air Concert Hall in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, and participants holding placards and flags responded in earnest.

Since the end of World War II, the Japan Self-Defence Forces (JSDF) have been limited by the country’s US-inspired, pacifist constitution, under Article 9. The JSDF have only been able to undertake humanitarian operations in war zones.

In July 2014, Abe’s government successfully watered down Article 9, giving the JSDF more assertive powers, which for some represented a “militarist” revolution for the country. In May of this year, the ruling coalition adopted additional legislation.

Today, the Diet (lower house) adopted two more security bills. Now it is up to the upper house (House of Councillors) to vote within 60 days whether to accept them or not. If it fails to vote, the bills can be sent back to the lower house and enacted if more than two-thirds of attending members agree.

According to analysts, today’s announcement could prove to be a turning point for the Abe administration, which came to power after the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won by a wide margin  in December 2012.

Recent polls indicate that a majority of voters oppose the early enactment of the security bills and support is falling. However, According to Fr Bianchin, "Abe can go to the polls with this choice.”

“From a logical point of view, Abe’s proposal makes sense,” said the priest. “Why would any country deny autonomy to its armed forces?” However, “given Japan’s history and context, this could be a real problem. Japan’s situation is special and for the Church Article 9 is guarantee. Without it, Japan could go down again its old militaristic path.”

What is more, at present, "Japan is not an ally on par with the United States,” said Fr Bianchin. Although “It is already involved in defence activity [to contain China in the South China Sea], it is not running it.” For this reason, “The Abe government wants to lift this burden. However, the Church is concerned that the leeway Japan is seeking is dangerous,” the missionary added.

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