Officials in Shinzo Abe’s government—from both Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and the more dovish Komeito party—signed off on laws implementing a rash of major changes to Japan’s regional security policy on Monday, allowing for Tokyo to take a more activist stance in its neighborhood for the first time since Word War II. Reuters reports:
The new legislation would allow Japan to exercise the minimum force necessary in case a country with which Tokyo has close ties is attacked. A planned new law would also allow Japan’s military to provide logistics support to foreign forces operating in line with the U.N. charter, without needing a special law for each mission.
Another change would drop geographical limits on Japanese defense support for the U.S. military and other foreign armed forces, which had previously been envisioned as restricted to situations involving contingencies on the Korean peninsula.
Next up, the laws will head to Prime Minister Abe’s cabinet, where they are expected to be approved on Thursday and sent to Parliament on Friday. “The most important thing is to win the public’s understanding as the government explains the new legislation in parliamentary debate. In that sense, we still have quite a long way to go,” a Komeito deputy told the press. A poll published on Monday found 46% in favor of the changes, while 41% were opposed. However, the public seems to favor a slower approach: 48% oppose the bills passing the current session of parliament, while only 34% are in favor.
While Parliament and the public deliberate the security issue, however, another key part of Japan’s rising militarism is finding its legs. The London Times reports that Tokyo’s first ever arms sale is right around the corner, after Japan and Australia’s long flirtation over sale of Japan’s powerful Soryu-class submarines, described as “the world’s largest and quietest non-nuclear submarine, built by Mitsubishi and Kawasaki Heavy Industries.” With Pacific tensions rising, Australia has a AU$40 billion dollar submarine tender out for new subs, and experts widely expect the Soryu to win the contract, if it’s for sale. The Times also lists some other suitors who have come calling now that Japan’s arms are on the market:
The Indian navy is contemplating the purchase of the ShinMaywa US-2 amphibious “flying boat”. Canada will need to replace its ageing submarine fleet in a few years’ time.
Japan is pushing Britain to buy the Kawasaki P-1 maritime surveillance aircraft — and the two countries have embarked on a joint project to develop an air-to-air missile.
The Kawasaki C-2 transport aircraft, which can take off from short runways, may find buyers when it is made available.
It’s going to be a big few weeks for Abe and his party. Their struggle to move Japan away from it’s post-War pacifism has been fought over years and on several parallel fronts—in terms of the constitution, in parliament, in the war for public opinion, and on the international stage. Having effectively reinterpreted the constitution and narrowly but consistently won and rewon the vote for otherwise tepid public opinion when it counts, they finally find themselves on the home stretch. If they can change Japan’s security policy and start exporting its powerful arms, most likely there will be no going back.