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Japan's Parliament debates on expansion of military power

Under pressure from the Lower House, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe clarifies that military force would only be used if the threat endangers the lives, freedom and prosperity of the Japanese people.

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

On July 1, 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, Abe clarified that military 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.

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 wasn't trying to escalate territorial tensions with China.

Instead, 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 (July 15), 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 Abe's new security policy. The latest poll by Nippon Television shows support for the Abe’s cabinet fell to 45.2 per cent - the lowest approval rating since his return to power in December 2012.

Protests against collective self-defence have also been taking place outside the Diet every day since the cabinet approval.

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