China and other neighboring nations have voiced concern that controversial legislation passed into law by the Japanese Diet could upend more than 70 years of Japan’s commitment to peaceful development in the region.
The bills, which passed with 148 in favor and 90 against after several hours of procedural delays and an actual fistfight, will give Japan the ability to fight in defense of its allies and support UN peacekeeping operations in a logistical role. Although the bills provide that Japan may only engage in such actions if there is an “imminent critical threat” to Japan’s security, those who oppose the legislation have criticized the wording of the law as too vague.
For Shinzo Abe and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the bill is intended to help address a number of issues facing Japan. Regionally Japan is embroiled in a number of territorial disputes with neighboring nations, with the conflict over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands being the most notable. Additionally, Prime Minister Abe has voiced his opinion that the bill will help strengthen ties with its ally, the United States.
Opposition to the bill has been fierce both inside and outside Japan. During the day of the vote, more than 10,000 protesters picketed outside of the Diet to voice their opposition to legislation that many Japanese fear will drag their nation into America’s conflicts. Polls have also indicated a sharp drop in support for Abe, with one poll reporting only 38.9 percent of Japanese in favor of Abe’s leadership.
The Global Times reports that China has characterized the reforms to the Japan Self-Defense Forces as unprecedented, with Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei voicing concern that “Japan’s recent military buildup and drastic changes to its military and security policies are out of step with the trend toward peace, development, and cooperation…” and that it calls into question whether Japan will “drop its exclusive defense policy and deviate from the path of peaceful development it has been following since World War II.”
Likewise, North and South Korea also voiced their concern that Japan’s new direction could pose a threat to peaceful development in the region, with North Korea stating that it will bolster its own military capabilities in response.
Taiwan, however, has seemed to voice a more “wait-and-see” approach to the issue. According to The China Post, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Eleanor Wang stated that Taiwan will continue to keep tabs on the issue as it develops, and expressed hope that Japan will continue to contribute to the peace and stability of the region. Similarly, the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) chairwoman and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen said that the effects of the bill have yet to be seen, and that they will continue to keep an eye on developments. Conversely, the KMT’s frontrunner Hung Hsiu-chu voiced regret and concern over what she called “Japan’s war bills”, and stated that Japan needs to rethink its actions.
Many legal scholars argue that the law is unconstitutional, and will likely face a ruling before Japan’s supreme court.
Perhaps if there is any good news, it is that the legislation may drive up demand for China’s over-the-top anti-Japan war dramas. Hooray for graphic violence!