Japan’s parliament has approved contentious legislation to loosen constraints on the country’s military, potentially letting Japanese troops fight overseas for the first time since World War II.
The approval by the upper house early Saturday makes the legislation law, changing longstanding rules that allowed Japan to use military force only in self-defense.
The legislation was passed by the more powerful lower house in July. The bills have triggered protests by many ordinary citizens who say that the changes violate Japan’s post-World War II constitution, and that they threaten to entangle the country in U.S.-led conflicts after 70 years of post-war peace.
The passage of the new security bills is a major milestone for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as he pursues his agenda of reducing limits on the military placed by pacifist Article Nine of the U.S-drafted, post-war constitution.
Abe has said the shift, the biggest change in Japan’s defense policy since the creation of its post-war military in 1954, is vital to meet new challenges such as the one posed by a rising China.
Japan-China ties have long been frayed by China’s memories of Japan’s wartime aggression, although relations have thawed since a November leaders’ meeting.