The controversial security legislation has passed the Upper House of the Diet, ushering in a new era in Japanese security policy. Although there was little doubt the bills would pass, the groundswell of disapproval from the public — drawing tens of thousands of protesters — and opposition lawmakers ensures the legislation will be under close scrutiny for the months to come.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe contends the security legislation will help protect Japanese at home and abroad, allow Japan to play a greater role in the international community and fulfill its commitments to the Japan-U.S. alliance. Abe's reassurance that the Self-Defense Forces would still operate under strict regulations and Japan would not be entangled in foreign wars did little to appease the skeptical public: According to a recent Asahi Shimbun poll, 54 percent of Japanese do not support the security legislation. As a result, the Abe administration has suffered a precipitous drop in its approval ratings over the last few months, a trend that is likely to continue.
Abe had painted himself into a corner, having promised to a joint meeting of Congress back in April that the security bills would be passed by the end of summer. If the bills had failed to pass, especially after President Barack Obama reassured Abe that Japan's dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands was covered by the Japan-U.S. security treaty, the alliance would have suffered and Abe's legacy, already marred by his resignation in 2007, would have surely been ruined.