The Japanese Parliament voted in favor of a historic measure to reauthorize overseas military activity today. Passing the legislation was a priority for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and his push has led to significant backlash. Indeed, demonstrators rallied outside the parliament building after the law passed, the latest in a series of large protests over the past few months. Earlier this week, a physical fight broke out in Parliament itself, causing some news outlets to wonder if Abe had the necessary support.
We thought Abe was likely to succeed, which is why you’ve seen little coverage of the scuffles and demonstrations here. Parliamentary Fisticuffs is favorite Japanese pastime, as this excellent Wall Street Journal feature documents. Until major riots break out in the streets of Tokyo (or new elections change the balance of power), this has all been more or less par for the course.
The more interesting story, which we have been doing our utmost to follow here on the site, is what this will mean for Asia-Pacific geopolitics. Abe and his allies want to bring back the Japan of the 1930s, a regional powerhouse that could stand up to China. Since World War II, the United States has cared for Japan’s security needs itself. Whether things remain that way or not—President Obama’s apparent unwillingness to commit American power to tackle crises in Syria and Ukraine has surely been noted by all of our allies around the world—Abe clearly believes that they should be so no longer.