TOKYO • A group of Japanese mothers has joined mounting opposition to Japan's plans to usher in legislation that could see troops engage in overseas combat for the first time since World War II.
The group yesterday submitted a petition with more than 19,000 signatures - mostly from mothers - calling for the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to drop the unpopular Bills that expand the role of the military.
The changes, expected to be passed by Parliament next week, have set off protests by tens of thousands of people and even a hunger strike by a group of Tokyo university students.
The Bills would greatly expand Japan's Self-Defence Forces' operations overseas and allow the country to exercise the right to collective self-defence, or go to the aid of the United States or other friendly nations under armed attack even if Japan itself is not being harmed.
"Our group has been campaigning to scrap the security Bills, with the slogan 'Don't let anyone's children die'," 28-year-old Minako Saigo said. She was with a handful of members presenting the petition at the ruling Liberal Democratic Party headquarters, with her three children in tow. "We are worried that the Bills are far from respecting the spirit of the Constitution."
RESPONSIBILITY TO YOUNGER GENERATION
Sitting in front of the television and just complaining wouldn't do. If I don't take action and try to put a stop to this, I will not be able to explain myself to my child in the future.
MS NAOKO HIRAMATS, 44, an associate professor in French and one of the Tokyo protesters. She had her four-year-old son with her
The post-war pacifist Constitution, imposed by the United States after World War II, barred troops from taking part in combat except in pure self-defence. Many Japanese feel strongly that their country should avoid armed conflict.
Many legal scholars have said the changes are unconstitutional, and critics worry they would drag Japan into American wars in far-flung parts of the globe.
However, Mr Abe and his supporters say the Bills are necessary to deal with a changing security environment marked by an increasingly assertive China and unpredictable North Korea.
Mr Abe is facing declining popularity as public opposition swells over the security Bills. Tens of thousands of Japanese had rallied across Japan on Aug 30 to protest.
"For 70 years, thanks to Article Nine of our Constitution, Japan has not engaged in war or been touched by any aggression," said demonstrator Masako Suzuki.
Ms Sachiko Morita, 73, had joined some 25,000 people at an Osaka rally, the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper reported. She said: "If we let this go, our children's and grandchildren's generations would be in trouble. I joined the event so that I would not be regretful."