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Japan Parliament Approves Military Bill - 2001-10-29

Japan's parliament has passed legislation that will allow the nation's armed forces to back the U.S.-led war against terrorism. While the new law will now permit Japanese troops to take part in limited overseas operations, it still prohibits them from engaging in actual combat.

For the first time since World War II, Tokyo can now send troops overseas during an armed conflict.

Lawmakers in the upper house of parliament Monday approved legislation, championed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, allowing the country's military to assist in the U.S.-led war on terrorism in Afghanistan.

The series of bills would give way for Japanese troops to provide logistical, medical and transport help, but bars them from any combat role.

Japan's constitution, drawn up after the country surrendered in World War II, bans it from taking part in overseas military operations. But Prime Minister Koizumi and other conservative leaders were determined to give a visible sign of support to the United States following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Gotaro Yoshimura, a lawmaker from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, addressed parliament Monday. "The terrorist attacks killed more than 5,000 and people now fear further attacks," he said. "There were Japanese victims who died on September 11, and now we too must take part in the fight against terrorism."

On Thursday, Mr. Koizumi and U.S. officials will meet in Tokyo to plan support measures, including possible deployment of Japanese naval vessels for transporting fuel and intelligence gathering.

Meanwhile, Mr. Koizumi scored another political victory Sunday when his Liberal Democratic Party regained a majority in the more powerful lower house of parliament. Party candidates won two seats in two by-elections. That means the highly popular prime minister could get more support for his controversial economic reform plans.

However, Mr. Koizumi still requires the support of his party's two coalition partners in the upper house of parliament. Analysts do not expect the change to have major impact on the balance of political power in Japan.