Japan military support bill approved
TOKYO, Japan -- Lawmakers in the Upper House of Japan's parliament have passed controversial legislation allowing the country's armed forces to take part in limited operations assisting the U.S.-led war on terror.
The legislation, already approved by the more powerful Lower House, allows Japanese troops to take part in limited overseas operations but not actual combat.
The package of bills allows the armed forces to transport supplies, conduct search-and-rescue missions, support humanitarian work with refugees and dispatch medical teams in support of U.S. troops and their allies.
Previous laws, under the country's post-World War II constitution, had barred Japan from taking part in any overseas military operation unless it was threatened or attacked directly.
Successive Japanese governments have interpreted the constitution, drawn up after the Japanese defeat in 1945, as banning collective self-defense or aiding allies in military endeavors.
Opposition parties had argued that providing even non-combatant manpower violates the constitutional bar on using military force to solve international disputes.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has been pushing for the new legislation to be passed quickly to allow Japan to be seen making a full contribution to the anti-terror campaign.
He has said the constitutional provisions do not bar Japanese forces from being used in a non-combatant supportive role.
Ten years ago Koizumi was one of the leading critics of Japan's so-called checkbook diplomacy during the Gulf War, when the country offered money to the coalition fighting Iraq, but no military assistance.
According to Japanese media initial missions are likely to involve naval vessels in reconnaissance missions and transporting fuel.
However, under the new legislation the government will have to seek parliament's approval for dispatching any force within 20 days of giving orders to move out.
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