A Japanese parliamentary committee has approved security bills to expand the role of the country's military despite vocal protests from opposition lawmakers and the public.
At the House of Representatives committee, which is dominated by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), members of opposition parties surrounded the chairman, holding banners to protest the "forced" passage.
But the bills that would expand the remit of the country's armed forces were approved by the lawmakers of the ruling coalition, and are now set to move to a vote in the main chamber on Thursday.
The proposed legislation is something of a pet project for Abe, despite widespread public disquiet over what many Japanese say is an affront to the country's 70 years of pacifism.
"Unfortunately, the Japanese people still don't have a substantial understanding" of the bills, the prime minister told the panel on Wednesday.
"I will work harder so public understanding would deepen further." Abe said.
Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett reporting from the South Korean capital, Seoul, said Prime Minister Abe reached the decision to push this bill July last year.
"Prime Minister Abe sees the need for Japan's military to be more muscular, to present more of a deterrent against potential enemies in the future. For that he says it needs to come to the aide of its main ally the united states and potentially others." Fawcett said.
One bill would allow the Japanese military a greater role, including the defence of foreign allies that come under attack.
Another would expand the military's international peacekeeping role. Many constitution experts say the legislation is unconstitutional. Polls find that about 80 percent of Japanese also have concerns.