Japan's post-World War II defense posture underwent a major shift this week as the Abe administration's security legislation, enacted last year amid an outcry from the opposition camp in the Diet, charges of unconstitutionality from scholars and a sharply divided public opinion, took effect. The set of two laws enables Japan to engage in collective self-defense, which the government had banned for decades under the war-renouncing Constitution, and significantly expands the scope and alters the nature of Self-Defense Forces' overseas missions.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe touted the implementation of the legislation as an event of "historic importance that makes peace and security of our country even more secure" and "upgrades our deterrence and enables the nation to proactively contribute more than ever to peace and stability of regional and international communities." At the same time, he stressed the importance of such actions winning a broad public support.
Whether the legislation enjoys widespread approval may still be up in the air six months after its enactment last September. Last month, five opposition parties jointly submitted a bill to scrap the laws — though Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito alliance, which has a dominant grip on the Diet, seems set to ignore it. Popular approval ratings of Abe's Cabinet, which plunged sharply last fall as his ruling alliance rammed the legislation through the Diet, have since largely recovered. A Kyodo News poll over the weekend showed that 49.9 percent of the respondents said they "do not value" the legislation, as opposed to 39 percent who said they do. In a Kyodo survey last month, 38 percent of the pollees said the legislation should be abolished, while another 47 percent said it should not be scrapped. Rallies by civic groups calling for its abolition continue, while there are moves by lawyers and experts to take legal action against the laws.