Anyone watching the debate over Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s drive to change the laws governing his nation’s self-defense force and permit overseas military deployments knows it is a highly contentious issue.
There have been large protests, heated arguments, and accusations of everything from heavy-handed politics to corruption.
Still, it seems bizarre to watch a fistfight break out in the Japanese parliament over pacifism, complete with one parliamentarian coming off the wall and diving into the scrum like a pro wrestler diving off the top rope:
As Reuters explains, the melee broke out because the defense bill cleared a review panel in the upper house of the Japanese parliament, paving the way for almost certain passage, given the legislative strength of supporters. The lower house has already passed the bill. What you are seeing in this clip is opponents of the bill—i.e. the pacifist caucus—attempting to physically prevent the panel chairs from signing off on it.
In other words, they are deploying physical force in the service of what they perceive as the national service.
The final vote could be coming very soon, but Reuters observes that opponents have “vowed to prevent a vote by the full chamber before parliament disperses on Sept. 27, even if they have to use delaying tactics such as no-confidence and censure motions.”
The United States, and many of Japan’s other allies, support these military reforms, arguing that they are necessary to present a unified front against Chinese adventurism in the South China Sea. (Of course, China hates this bill, and has lately been muttering that it will lead to the return of the Empire of the Rising Sun—a belief very difficult for anyone who has seen footage of the Tokyo street protests to maintain.) Some Japanese have less dramatic fears, such as that announcing more aggressive defense policies will make Japanese citizens bigger targets for terrorists when they travel overseas.
Some of the protesters resent the United States’s support for Abe’s defense bill, and maybe some of them see this as an opportunity to work out long-simmering resentments for America.