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.