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Abe Urges Stronger Military Role for Japan
May 18, 2014

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made a very public case for a larger military role for his country in world affairs.

In a nationally televised speech, Abe urged the Japanese legislature to formally reinterpret the country's constitution in terms of what is now termed the Self-Defense Forces to allow for Japanese forces to aid those of other countries under attack. He stressed that he was not advocating any kind of military agenda.

The Japanese Constitution specifically bans war and provides for a military only in a primarily defensive capacity. Quite literally, the constitution bans all military on land and sea and in the air; however, the country has found international favor with its loose interpretation of the military provision, which helped created the existing small military force.

Any change in the Constitution requires the approval of both a two-thirds majority of both houses of parliament and of a majority of the nation's voters in a nationwide referendum. Abe's Liberal Democratic Party currently rules the government in coalition with the New Komeito Party, which has been traditionally pacifist.

Abe announced the results of an advisory panel report, which urged a more widespread military approach, particularly if one of Japan's allies was attacked, such as North Korea firing a missile at a U.S. warship off the coast of Japan. More importantly, the Japanese navy would be able to respond if U.S. or other ships were threatened in the East China Sea, near a set of islands that have been at the heart of a dispute between China and Japan for many months.

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