Japan's Cabinet is set to endorse a set of defense bills allowing the country's military to go beyond its self-defense stance and play a greater role internationally, a plan that has split public opinion.

Hundreds of citizens rallied outside Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's office Thursday, calling the bills "war legislation" that turn Japan toward militarism.

The government says the bills, which would remove geographic restrictions on where the military can operate and allow it to do more, are needed to change domestic law in line with Japan's national security policy under Abe. Supporters call it a "proactive" peace contribution.

The bills would allow Japan to defend its allies for the first time since World War II, based on an interpretation of the war-renouncing Constitution Abe's Cabinet adopted last year.