Japan is at a historic crossroads in amending its long-held pacifist defense posture, a move that it may never reverse. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet formally reinterpreted the war-renouncing Article 9 on Tuesday, reading the Constitution as permitting at least partial use of the right of collective self-defense.

Administration officials and New Komeito lawmakers defend the decision by saying Japan will only use the right under strict conditions.

But many critics, including uncounted numbers of ordinary citizens, doubt the conditions will in reality serve as restraints. They suspect Abe's aggressive constitutional reinterpretation could eventually allow Japan to wage a war that has far less relevance to the nation's self-defense.