TOKYO -- Tuesday marks a watershed moment in postwar Japanese defense policy, opening the door to collective security actions long deemed contrary to a constitutional ban on making war.
Two national security laws enacted last year have now gone into effect. One enables the Self-Defense Forces to engage in collective security -- retaliation against an attack on a close ally, such as the U.S.
Past postwar governments had maintained that Japan enjoyed this right under international law but was constitutionally barred from exercising it. They held that such actions would overstep the bare minimum of military force allowed under Article 9.
But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has presided over a change in this long-held interpretation. The July 2014 shift cleared the way for last year's legislation, which had a stormy passage through parliament.
The other law lets the SDF provide noncombat support to armed forces of other countries as the need arises. For Japanese forces, which will pursue greater integration with the U.S. military, this marks a step into the unknown.
Tokyo has no immediate plans to send SDF units on United Nations peacekeeping operations or other new overseas missions. Defense Minister Gen Nakatani told senior ministry officials Monday to move ahead carefully with preparation and training. Japan and the U.S. will work on joint operational plans to prepare for the possibility of collective security action.