Wall Street Journal on July 16, 2015, reported that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made a significant stride toward his goal of expanding the role of Japan’s military, as the main chamber of parliament passed a package of national security bills… Excerpts below:

The passage of the bills enables Mr. Abe to make good on a promise he made to U.S. lawmakers to approve “by this summer” legislation that allows Japan to take on more responsibility under their bilateral security agreement. Citing heightened tensions in East Asia, the U.S. and Japan upgraded the guidelines to their security treaty during Mr. Abe’s visit to Washington in April 2015.

“The security environment surrounding Japan continues to get tougher,” Mr. Abe told reporters after the vote. “These are absolutely necessary bills in order to protect the lives of Japanese people and prevent wars.”

The bills will now be sent to the upper house of parliament, where opposition lawmakers plan to continue fighting them. But even if the legislation fails to gain approval there, passage means it will automatically be sent back in 60 days to the more powerful lower house, which would have the final vote.

The most contentious aspect of the legislation would allow Japanese troops to come to the rescue of allies under attack even if Japan itself hasn’t been attacked.

Mr. Abe has criticized China’s territorial ambitions in the South China Sea, and Tokyo and Beijing have a dispute over Japan-held islands in the East China Sea.

The security legislation would bolster Japan’s ability to aid U.S. forces in the event of a U.S.-China conflict in Asian waters — even through direct participation in the fighting, if Japan judged that its own territory was under grave threat.

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