Tectonic shift: Japan clears way to fight abroad in military alliance

Tectonic shift: Japan clears way to fight abroad in military alliance

[Ed. – This one is big.]

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.

The new policy has angered an increasingly assertive China…

The shift, however, will be welcomed by Washington, which has long urged Tokyo to become a more equal alliance partner, and by Southeast Asia nations that also have rows with China.

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