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“Japan Takes Historic Step from Post - War Pacifism, Oks Fighting for Allies”
by Reuters   
July 1st, 2014

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe waves upon his arrival at his official residence in Tokyo July 1, 2014.  REUTERS/Issei Kato
By Linda Sieg and Kiyoshi Takenaka

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan took a historic step away from its post-war pacifism on Tuesday by ending a ban that has kept the military from fighting abroad since 1945, a victory for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe but a move that has riled China and worries many Japanese voters.

The change, the most dramatic shift in policy since Japan set up its post-war armed forces 60 years ago, will widen Japan's military options by ending the ban on exercising "collective self-defense", or aiding a friendly country under attack.

Abe's cabinet adopted a resolution outlining the shift, which also relaxes limits on activities in U.N.-led peace-keeping operations and "grey zone" incidents short of full-scale war, Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters. Long constrained by the post-war constitution, Japan's armed forces will become more aligned with the militaries of other advanced nations , in terms of its options, but the government will be wary of putting boots on the ground in multilateral operations such as the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Abe repeated that stance on Tuesday, while stressing Japan had to respond to an increasingly tough security environment.

"There is no change in the general principle that we cannot send troops overseas," Abe told a televised news conference, flanked by a poster showing Japanese mothers and infants fleeing a theoretical combat zone on a U.S. vessel under attack.

The new policy has angered an increasingly assertive China, whose ties with Japan have frayed due to a maritime row, mistrust and the legacy of Japan's past military aggression. "China opposes the Japanese fabricating the China threat to promote its domestic political agenda," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a news conference in Beijing.

"We demand that Japan respect the reasonable security concerns of its Asian neighbors and prudently handle the relevant matter."

South Korea, like Japan allied with the United States, but still aggrieved about Tokyo's 20th century colonization of the Korean peninsula, said it would not accept any change in policy affecting its security unless it gave its agreement.

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