On May 14, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet approved a set of legislative packages that would change the operational parameters of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF). During a press conferenceheld on the same day, Abe explained that these legislative changes are absolutely critical for Japan to defend itself in a fast-changing security environment and continue its efforts in making a “proactive contribution to peace.”
The legislative package will be the central focus of legislative deliberation in the Japanese Diet in the coming few months. Already, opposition parties, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in particular, are openly complaining about Abe’s “promise” to pass the legislation through the Diet by the end of this summer in his April 29 speech in front of the U.S. Congress. Critics see that pledge as a sign of Abe’s contempt for the Diet, claiming that he committed Japan to actions that are not yet authorized by the Japanese Diet. As public opinion polls, such as the one conducted by Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK) and released on May 11, 2015, continue to show almost an even split on the potential for JSDF assuming a greater role overseas, the Abe government will face an uphill battle as it pushes through this legislation, which is critical in implementing the new U.S.-Japan Guidelines for Defense Cooperation.
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