Thousands of people rallied Sunday against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to bolster the role and scope of the Self-Defense Forces.
The protest, which surrounded the Diet, was held as the nationalist Abe tries to force through a set of controversial bills making the changes.
The bills are a pet project of Abe, who says Japan can no longer shy away from its responsibility to help safeguard regional stability and must step out from under the security umbrella provided by the United States.
The draft legislation would broaden the role of SDF, including protecting allies.
Opponents of the bills accuse Abe of trying to move the country away from pacifism.
Three scholars summoned to the Diet testified this month that the bills are unconstitutional.
The Constitution was imposed by the U.S. Occupation in the aftermath of World War II, but its war-renouncing Article 9 is held dear by many people.
“Don’t destroy Article 9,” read banners at the rally, which organizers said attracted around 25,000 people.
The legislation, which would overhaul 10 security-related laws and create a new one, would also pave the way for the SDF to deploy abroad on noncombat missions such as disaster relief and U.N. peacekeeping missions.
Revisions include removing geographical constraints on logistic support for friendly forces in “situations that would significantly affect Japan’s security.”
They also say Japan can defend allies “in situations where there is a clear risk that Japan’s existence is threatened and its people’s rights . . . are compromised through an attack on a country that has a close relationship with Japan.”
In a separate rally in Tokyo’s bustling Shibuya district the same day, young people, mainly high school and university students, also rallied against Abe’s drive.
“People in younger generations are feeling a sense of crisis now that constitutional scholars said no to the bills,” said college student Nobuyoshi Hatae, 21.
“We have no right to vote in elections, but we are strongly against war,” high school student Haruka Suzuki said.