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Thousands protest greater Japanese military role

TOKYO (AP) — Thousands of people protested outside the Japanese prime minister’s office Monday in anticipation his government will reinterpret the constitution to allow Japan’s military a larger international role.

Several thousand people demonstrated to demand that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet scrap its plan, intended to allow the Japanese military to help defend other nations. It would be one of the biggest changes in Japan’s security policy since World War II.

Protesters are surrounded by police officers during a rally outside Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s official residence in Tokyo Monday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Kyodo News)

The Cabinet is expected to announce the decision on Tuesday. The constitution renounces war and has been interpreted as allowing the use of arms only for Japan’s own self-defense, and critics say the change undermines the charter.

Beating drums and carrying placards and banners, the protesters demanded Abe resign and protested that efforts were being made to change the constitution not by democratic process of referendum but by changing interpretation of it in a Cabinet meeting.

“Protect the constitution!” they shouted. “Stop war. Stop Abe. Abe quit right now!”

Abe says the revision is needed because of China’s military expansion and missile and nuclear threats from North Korea.

Yoshifu Arita, an opposition Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker, joined the rally and said Japan is at a major crossroad. He compared a Cabinet decision to a coup attempt and said it must be stopped.

Yoshiki Yamashita, a communist, accused Abe’s government of turning a deaf year to the people’s voices. “Can we really keep peace by sending young people to a distant battlefield? We must stock a Cabinet decision,” he shouted into a loud speaker.

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