Japan extends Parliament session by over 3 months as PM Abe seeks security reforms

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe smiles as he delivers a speech at the 50th anniversary ceremony for the normalizing of relations between Japan and South Korea.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe smiles as he delivers a speech at the 50th anniversary ceremony for the normalizing of relations between Japan and South Korea. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan's Parliament voted on Monday to extend its current session by more than three months, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe faces strong opposition over plans to extend the military's role in the officially pacifist nation.

The Lower House, led by Mr Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, voted for a 95-day extension through late September. The coalition has a sizeable majority in both the lower and upper houses.

"I want to discuss (reforms) thoroughly by extending the session as much as 95 days, taking substantial time," Mr Abe told reporters late on Monday.

Mr Abe, a robust nationalist, has pushed for what he calls a normalisation of Japan's military posture. He wants to loosen restrictions that have bound the so-called Self-Defense Forces to a narrowly defensive role for decades. But because he was unable to muster public support to amend the pacifist Constitution imposed by the United States after World War II, Mr Abe opted instead to reinterpret it.

He proposed legislation that would allow the military greater scope to act.

Opposition lawmakers have stepped up criticism after legal experts said legislation that would allow Japan's military to fight in defence of allies was unconstitutional.

Thousands of people rallied outside parliament last week in protest at the plans.