Asia-Pacific News

What you need to know about Japan's security bills

President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the White House South Lawn in Washington, April 28, 2015.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

The upper house of Japan's parliament is expected to enact into law the month legislation that could enable Japanese troops to fight overseas for the first time since World War Two.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the changes are needed to address new challenges such as China's growing military assertiveness. Critics say the laws violate the pacifist constitution and could entangle Japan in U.S.-led conflicts.

Below are key points of the legislation, which consists of one new law and revisions to 10 existing laws.

'Limited' collective self-defense

This allows Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defense by deploying its military to respond to an attack against a friendly foreign country under three conditions: the attack results in a threat to Japan's survival, no other appropriate means are available and the use of force is limited to the minimum necessary.

As examples, Abe has cited defending a U.S. ship attacked while transporting Japanese citizens evacuating a conflict zone, or protecting a U.S. destroyer conducting surveillance against a possible missile attack on Japan.

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Abe has said as a general principle, Japanese troops would not be sent to fight in foreign territory or waters but an exception could be made for mine-sweeping in the Hormuz Strait if maritime commerce is blocked.

Abe has also said Japan would not send troops to fight in multinational conflicts such as the 2003 war in Iraq.

International peace support law

A new, permanent law would allow Japan's military, with prior parliamentary approval, to provide logistical support to armed forces of other countries seeking collectively to secure international peace, if a U.N. resolution has been adopted. Activities would be limited to areas where conflict is not underway.

This removes the need for a new, specific law for each operation as when Japan provided refueling support for U.S.-led operations in the Indian Ocean during the Afghan war.

Logistical support

Allows Japan to provide logistical support to the United States and other countries engaged in operations in situations with "important influence" on Japan's security. This expands the current scope and clarifies that there are no geographical constraints.

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Expands scope for providing services and supplies, including ammunition, to U.S. and other militaries. The government has cited the example of logistical support in contingencies on the Korean peninsula.

Abe has ruled out providing logistics support for U.S.-led operations against Islamic State.


In addition to U.N. peacekeeping operations, allows Japan's military to take part in multilateral peace and security operations outside the U.N. framework.

Allows Japanese military to protect civilians or troops of other countries participating in peacekeeping.

Relaxes rules on use of weapons during peacekeeping operations.

Asset protection

Allows Japan's military to protect weapons and other equipment of U.S. and other countries' armed forces when they are engaged in operations that contribute to Japan's defense.