Japan’s neighbors reacted with concern after the country’s upper chamber of parliament approved measures Saturday removing some long-standing limits on overseas combat.
The legislation reinterprets Article 9 of Japan’s pacifist post-World War II Constitution. That section reads, in part, “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”
Now, the Japanese military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, or SDF, will be allowed to provide limited defense for its allies in conflicts abroad. The forces have traditionally been restricted to humanitarian roles.
And it wasn’t even close:
The 148-90 vote was the final hurdle for the measures, which will go into effect within roughly the next six months. The lower parliamentary chamber passed the legislation in July.
China’s Ministry of Defense accused Japan of clinging to a “Cold War mentality,” while media outlets noted the measures were passed a day after the 84th anniversary of Japan’s invasion of China.
You’d expect a Chinese official to say something exactly like that, which is of course exactly wrong.
Japan’s Cold War mentality was to keep military spending at or under 1% of GDP, and rely on the United States for protection outside the Home Islands. That was a pretty good deal for Tokyo, and it’s not the kind of arrangement a country gives up on a whim.
But China is a rising power, and America can’t be counted on like we used to be.
So what else is Japan to do?