Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday announced that despite public opposition the government of Japan was re-authorizing the military, marking a dramatic shift from the nation’s decades-long pledge to pacifism.
In a meeting Tuesday, the government Cabinet approved a reinterpretation of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, permitting Japan to now exercise the right to “collective self defense.” The post-World War II document forbids the use of force in all cases except when the nation comes under direct attack, outlaws war as a means to settle international disputes, and disallows maintaining armed forces with war potential.
According to The Asahi Shimbun, the reinterpretation of the document broadens the definition of “individual self-defense” to include “the defense of allies,” now allowing military force to be used on collective security operations sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council.
By reinterpreting Article 9, rather than changing the document altogether, Abe avoids having to hold a national referendum on a constitutional change.
Ahead of the announcement, roughly 10,000 people protested outside the government offices in Tokyo on Monday, calling for Abe’s resignation.
“Stop war. Stop Abe,” they shouted while wielding placards and banging drums, the Associated Press reports. “Protect the Constitution!”
One demonstrator reportedly set himself on fire to protest the remilitarization.
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