• Kyodo

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About 100 experts on the Middle East, including former Japanese ambassadors to the region, called Monday for the abolition of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s security bills, saying they could ruin the region’s faith in Japan and eventually threaten the lives of Japanese.

“(Recent) major wars led by the United States, such as the Iraq War, were solely against the Middle East. It is wrong to take a policy to sharply expand (Tokyo’s) cooperative framework (for such fighting),” the group of experts said in a statement.

Among the people backing the statement are Kunio Katakura, Japan’s ambassador to Iraq at the time of the Gulf War, and Hiroshi Shiojiri, a former ambassador to Libya.

The bills, currently in the Upper House, would allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of the United States or other friendly nations under armed attack even if Japan itself is not attacked.

The legislation would mark a major shift in Japan’s post-World War II exclusively defense-oriented security policy.

The experts said in the statement that Japan’s policy of not using force abroad despite its economic power has been highly admired and served as the basis for friendship and faith in Japan among people in the Middle East.

“The bills could ruin the trust of the Middle East, Asia and people of the world, and endanger the lives of Japanese,” the statement said.

Hidemitsu Kuroki, a professor on Middle Eastern studies at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, said the government should not take a diplomatic policy that follows the United States.

In the case of the civil war in Syria, Japan should instead explore ways to ease the conflict through the use of “soft power.”

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