Japanese politicians scuffled during a heated debate over a security bill that could see the military fight abroad for the first time in decades, after thousands rallied to voice their anger.
In scenes uncommon for Japan’s normally sedate parliament, members of the opposition and the ruling coalition pushed and shoved each other as a committee chairman was surrounded.
Tensions fan high after the committee vote was repeatedly delayed over Wednesday night, as opposition MPs blocked doorways and packed the corridors of parliament in protest.
Thirteen people were also reportedly arrested during the evening for “interfering with officers” during a rally of an estimated 13,000 people outside parliament in Tokyo.
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets to vent their anger during almost daily rallies over the past weeks, a show of public feeling on a scale rarely seen in Japan.
Under the planned changes, the military – known as the self-defence forces – would have the option of going into battle to protect allies such as the United States even if there was no direct threat to Japan or its people.
Although the constitution, which bars troops from taking part in combat except in pure self-defence, was imposed by US occupiers, many Japanese feel strongly a change in the law would alter the country’s pacifist character.
The bills are scheduled to be sent to a plenary session of the upper house after being voted on by the committee, potentially seeing them become law soon