Japan pushes military reform despite suicide

July 01, 2014 - 2:13:37 am

TOKYO:  Japan’s government will press ahead with divisive plans to loosen restrictions on its military, a top government spokesman said, despite widespread public anger and a protester’s horrific suicide bid.

Hundreds of people in the busy Tokyo district of Shinjuku watched on Sunday afternoon as a middle-aged man in a suit set himself ablaze above a footbridge, after making a speech opposing moves to let Japan’s well-equipped military fight on behalf of allies.

The dramatic suicide attempt was widely discussed on social media in both English and Japanese, with numerous videos and photographs posted by onlookers.

Many Internet users made the connection between the self-immolation and a groundswell of opposition to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to relax constitutional rules preventing Japan’s armed forces from going into battle.

Abe says growing regional tensions -- including China’s increasingly assertive stance in various territorial disputes -- and the erratic actions of North Korea mean Japan must be better prepared to defend itself.

The conservative premier’s plans to increase Japan’s military options are supported by the United States, Tokyo’s chief ally, but are highly controversial at home, where voters are deeply wedded to the pacifism Japan adopted after World War II.                                  AFP