Former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama said Wednesday “a sense of crisis” drove him to join protesters outside the Diet who were rallying against legislation that would overhaul the country’s security policies.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, the 91-year-old expressed concern about the implications of the bills — currently being debated in the Upper House — to expand the role of the Self-Defense Forces abroad.

Murayama said he expects the bills will pass with a majority vote in the Upper House, and that he fears a revision of the war-renouncing Constitution will eventually become a reality.

“If something happened, the SDF would be dispatched and could be engaged in a war,” Murayama said. “I stood up out of a sense of crisis.”

He said he hopes lawmakers will examine the bills inside out “rather than railroading them” through the Diet.

Debate over the bills kicked off in the Upper House on Monday after the ruling bloc bulldozed them through the Lower House on July 16.

The former Social Democratic Party leader attended a rally last Thursday that was organized by an anti-war group that seeks to defend the Constitution.

“Japan has pledged not to wage war under the Constitution and has maintained peace for the last 70 years,” Murayama was quoted as saying in an impromptu speech at the rally.

“We will never allow the government to turn Japan into a warring country” by reinterpreting the Constitution, he added.

During Wednesday’s news conference, he noted that many members of the public oppose the move by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to reinterpret the Constitution. He said politicians should pay more attention to the voices of those people.

Regarding the statement he issued 20 years ago, on the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, Murayama said he wanted to show remorse and apologize for Japan’s wartime past.

“I decided to issue the statement . . . to gain the understanding of the people by clarifying that we won’t repeat such a mistake” so that Japan wouldn’t be mistrusted and isolated in Asia, Murayama said.

In the statement, released Aug. 15, 1995, he apologized for Japan’s wartime aggression and for its colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

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