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Japan's parliament begins collective self defence debate

Japan's Lower House of Parliament has begun debate on the cabinet's decision to expand the Self Defence Force's powers. 

TOKYO: Japan's Lower House of Parliament has begun a debate on the cabinet's decision to expand the Self Defence Force's powers. A key question raised -- just what are the circumstances under which Japan can use force?

At the start of this month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet approved the reinterpretation of Japan's pacifist constitution to allow its Self Defence Force to use military might to defend its allies. Under pressure from the Lower House, Mr Abe clarified that force would only be used if the threat could endanger the lives, freedom and prosperity of the Japanese people, and if there were no other measures to protect the Japanese people.

Mr Abe also explained that the catalyst for reinterpreting the constitution was the rising security threats in the region, with an increasingly aggressive China and an unstable North Korea. Still, he sought to assure the Lower House that he was not trying to escalate territorial tensions with China. Instead, Mr Abe said he was seeking dialogue with Beijing to avert any crisis, adding that he is looking forward to holding the first bilateral summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping during November's APEC meetings.

The debate heads to the Upper House on Tuesday, and the discussions will form the basis on which bills will be formulated in order for the expansion of the Self Defence Forces powers to take effect. The debates are also closely watched by a public mostly wary of Mr Abe's new security policy. The latest poll by Nippon Television shows support for the Abe Cabinet fell to 45.2 per cent -- the lowest approval rating since Mr Abe came to power. Protests against collective self-defence also have been taking place outside the Diet every day since the cabinet approval.


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