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Japan Is Making It Easier To Send Troops Overseas And People Are Not Happy

The changes could be the biggest revamping of Japan's military since the country adopted a pacifist stance after the horrors of World War II.

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Japan's lower house of parliament (the Diet) has approved a series of changes that would allow for an expanded role for the Japanese military in a contentious vote that has left many in Japan concerned about the country's pacifist posture.

Under the terms of Japan's constitution adopted after WWII, the country can't maintain a military, navy, or air force. That has been fudged slightly over the years, though, to allow for the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to exist.

Toru Yamanaka / AFP / Getty Images

Technically, the SDF are part of Japan's police forces. Over the years, the areas in which they're allowed to operate has been expanded. They've taken part in international peacekeeping missions, though only serving in non-combat capacities. Most controversially, Japan sent a contingent of troops to Iraq to help stabilize the country after the U.S.-led invasion, but withdrew in 2006.

1. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.2. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has long wanted to amend Article 9, but couldn't muster the support. Instead, the changes he's marshaled forward don't actually alter the constitution, just what the government says the constitution means.

Shuji Kajiyama / AP

The lower house passed two bills on Wednesday: the first would permanently allow for the SDF to take part in the logistical side of U.N.-backed military operations that aren't peacekeeping — like the first Gulf War or the 2011 NATO bombing of Libya.

The other amends ten laws that currently place restrictions on what the SDF can and can't do, formalizing changes in interpretation that Abe's cabinet signed off on last year. "The latter bill would allow Japan to use the right of collective self-defense as defined under the United Nations charter, or the right to use force to aid an ally under attack even if Japan itself is not," the Japan Times explained.

Opposition lawmakers refused to take part in the vote. Instead, they made their speeches against the measures and then walked out in boycott. The bills easily passed on the votes of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito.

But Japanese citizens are not happy. An estimated 60,000 protesters turned out in front of the Diet building on Wednesday to rally against the changes. The demonstrations were peaceful, but still saw police pushing back protesters.

Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Hayes Brown at hayes.brown@buzzfeed.com.

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