A Lower House panel approved a revision to the peacekeeping operations law Thursday that will allow military commanders to order defensive fire.

The revision was expected to be supported by all parties except the Social Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party. The bill is expected to clear the full Lower House in a plenary session today, after which it will be sent to the Upper House.

The government said the revision is necessary to ensure the safety of members of the Self-Defense Forces who join U.N. peacekeeping missions. “Six years of experience have shown us the law needs to be revised. Individual judgments may lead to more confusion and threaten the life of SDF members,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Kanezo Muraoka.

In the panel’s debate, JCP lawmaker Masahiro Nakaji opposed the revision, saying that it would violate the constitutional ban on Japan engaging in collective defense activities abroad. “The government has been saying that the peacekeeping law would not lead to collective security because the use of weapons is made on the judgment of each unit member when the life of that soldier or officer is threatened,” Nakaji said. “The revision contradicts the government’s core argument.”

Under the current Law Concerning Cooperation for United Nations Peace Keeping Operations and Other Operations, the use of weapons is dependent on whether individual members of a peacekeeping unit decide a situation is considered life-threatening.

The revision to give commanders, and not individual soldiers, the discretion to order defensive fire stems from the experiences of Japanese peacekeepers in Cambodia and Rwanda.

The SDP voted against the revision on the grounds that the amendment could expand of use of weapons by SDF officers taking part in peacekeeping missions.

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