TOKYO - Amid heated debate, protests and falling approval ratings due to bills intended to beef up Japan's defence, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe received a pat on the back from Philip Hammond, the UK's secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs.
During a joint interview with the Nikkei Asian Review and the Financial Times on Saturday, the visiting Hammond welcomed the security bills -- currently under debate in parliament -- as well as the Abe government's controversial decision last summer to reinterpret the constitution to expand the scope of activity of Japan's Self-Defence Forces.
"We very much welcome Japan's security legislation," the UK's top diplomat said in an interview at the British Ambassador's residence, located just across from the Imperial Palace.
"Japan has played an important role in dealing with some of the important challenges around the world but it has been constrained by the self-imposed restrictions in the Japanese constitution.
"We welcome Japan's decision to reinterpret the way those will work so that Japan can make a bigger contribution to maintaining the peace and stability of the international system."
He added that "there is significant scope for a collaborative approach to working between UK armed forces and Japan's Self Defence Forces" in joint exercises as well as humanitarian initiatives and disaster relief.
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