An Upper House panel approved a government-backed bill Thursday that allows military commanders to order defensive fire if the need arises during United Nations peacekeeping operations.

Members of the Upper House Committee on Foreign and Defense Affairs, excluding those from the Social Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party, supported the bill.

The bill, which revises the Law Concerning Cooperation for United Nations Peacekeeping Operations and Other Operations, is expected to clear the full legislature during an Upper House plenary session today. Under the current law, the decision to use weapons falls to the discretion of individual members of a peacekeeping unit if a situation is deemed to be life-threatening. The need to give commanders, and not just individual soldiers, the ability to order defensive fire stems from the experiences of Japanese peacekeepers in Cambodia and Rwanda, according to government officials.

The SDP and the JCP opposed the bill, saying it violates the Constitution, which bans organized military activities abroad and the use of force to resolve international conflicts.

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