Japan PM Abe defends security legislation after support slides

Members of the nationalist movement "Ganbare Nippon", holding Japanese national flags, gather in front of Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's official residence during a rally in Tokyo, Japan, July 12, 2015. Hundreds of people participated in the dem
Members of the nationalist movement "Ganbare Nippon", holding Japanese national flags, gather in front of Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's official residence during a rally in Tokyo, Japan, July 12, 2015. Hundreds of people participated in the demonstration on Sunday to support Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's security bills near the parliament. PHOTO: REUTERS
Civic group members hold placards and chant anti-government slogans in Tokyo on July 14, 2015 to protest against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's controversial security bills.
Civic group members hold placards and chant anti-government slogans in Tokyo on July 14, 2015 to protest against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's controversial security bills.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe defended controversial security bills that have sparked protests from voters worried they violate the country's pacifist constitution, after polls showed a drop in popular support for his government.

The security bills would allow Japan to exercise its right of collective self-defence, or to defend a friendly country under attack. They have been approved by the lower house of parliament and will now be deliberated in the upper house.

"The legislation has been linked to certain images, with some people calling it 'war legislation' and talking about conscription. This is wrong," he said, asserting that the legislation would decrease the risk of war rather than increase it.

Asked if China's military assertiveness was behind the bills, he said the security environment was worsening but declined to single out China by name.

Support for Abe's government fell nearly 10 points to 37.7 per cent in a poll by Kyodo news agency released on Saturday, after his ruling bloc pushed forward legislation marking a dramatic shift in the nation's post-war defence policy.

The survey by Kyodo news agency, conducted on Friday and Saturday, showed 51.6 per cent disapproved of Abe's government. It was the first time Abe's disapproval rating had topped 50 percent since he took office in December 2012, promising to bolster Japan's defences and reboot the stale economy.

Abe said the numbers were "tough" and likely a result of misunderstandings over the bills.

Abe has been expected to win re-election for another three-year term as LDP leader in a September party election. So far no rival has indicated a desire to contest the race.