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Pacific News Minute: Determined Opposition to Japan's New Security Laws

m-louis .® / Flickr
m-louis .® / Flickr

After a bitter debate that dragged on into the wee hours of Saturday morning, Japan's Upper House voted final approval on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's controversial security laws.  The measures reinterpret the country's pacifist constitution and expand the circumstances under which Japanese troops could go into combat.  Reaction, from Neal Conan in our Pacific News Minute.

China's Xinhua News Agency said, "It is deplorable that Abe, after acknowledging the mistake Japan made over 70 years ago, is now choosing to repeat the same mistake." A wary South Korean foreign ministry called on Tokyo to "stand by the spirit of the Pacifist Constitution" and North Korea's state news agency KCNA declared that the laws "pave the way for invading other countries."

In fact, the laws as written limit the circumstances under which Japanese troops could act if - for example - North Korea invaded the South.  Prime Minister Abe said that Japan could provide only logistical support.  He said it would still be against the constitution to send Japanese troops.

But South Korea is not the ally most Japanese worry about.  Many agree with leftist legislator Taro Yamamoto who warned, "We will absolutely be caught up in illegal American wars." Other opponents said the laws make Japan America's deputy sheriff.

The laws will be challenged in court, though a case could take years to reach Japan's Supreme Court, and while Prime Minister Abe spent considerable political capital pushing the laws through - his popularity dropped under 40% in a weekend poll - his Liberal Democratic Party faces weak and divided opposition.

The U.S. and Britain both welcomed the new laws, along with many Asian states.  The Philippines, for example, which has stepped up defense ties to both Japan and the United States amid concerns over Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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