The Cabinet on Friday approved historic proposals to give military officers more say in planning Self-Defense Forces operations, placing senior officers on an equal footing with civil servants beneath the defense minister.

Pending Diet approval, the changes would also abolish the ministry's operation and planning bureau, transferring its operational duties to the SDF Joint Staff, which thereafter would be in charge of planning military operations and seeking approval from the defense minister.

Critics say the change threatens to ease the civilian defense staff's tight control over the Self-Defense Forces, although Defense Minister Gen Nakatani has repeatedly denied this.