Japan's upper house takes up bills on security

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe answers questions at the plenary session of the upper house of parliament in Tokyo on July 27, 2015. The upper house started debate on controversial security bills which would expand the remit of the country's armed forces.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed Monday to try his best to gain the public's understanding of the security-related bills recently passed in the lower house, as the House of Councillors started discussions on the legislation in a plenary session.

The bills, which have been the main focus of attention in the current Diet session, would allow Japan to exercise its right of collective self-defence in a limited manner.

They were forwarded to the upper house after the House of Representatives passed them earlier this month.

Opinion polls have since shown that many members of the public believe that the government and the ruling parties have failed to extensively explain the bills, and those who oppose the bills exceed those who support them.

Asked about what he thought about these results during Monday's question-and-answer session, Abe acknowledged that there are "harsh opinions among members of the public."

"I'll try hard to gain their understanding by providing explanations that are as plain and scrupulous as possible," the prime minister added.

The Democratic Party of Japan and other opposition parties aim to block the passage of the bills in the upper house and seek more opinions from the public against what they call the "unconstitutional" bills.

During Monday's discussions, some opposition members said the voting on the bills in the lower house was "steamrolled" by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner, Komeito.

However, Abe said the procedure was reasonable, emphasizing that 116 hours had been spent on discussions before their passage.

For the upper house discussions, the ruling camp reviewed how much time should be allocated for questioning by members of the ruling and opposition parties, and granted more time to the ruling camp than it had during discussions in the lower house so that the prime minister could have more time to give scrupulous explanations.

In the House of Representatives discussions, the opposition parties were given six times more time for questions than the ruling parties.

In Monday's plenary session, questions were posed by the LDP's Junzo Yamamoto, the DPJ's Toshimi Kitazawa, Komeito's Kiyohiro Araki, Jiro Ono of the Japan Innovation Party and Tadayoshi Ichida of the Japanese Communist Party.

Abe will attend three-day discussions starting Tuesday on the security-related bills at a House of Councillors special committee.

If the upper house fails to pass the bills within 60 days, the lower house can exercise its authority to pass the bills for a second time with a two-thirds vote, making it certain the legislation will pass by the end of the current Diet session on Sept. 27.