World

Japan parliament committee OKs bills to expand role of Japanese military

  • Opposition lawmakers surround Yasukazu Hamada, right, chairman of the lower house special committee on security legislation, as Hamada continues the committee proceedings at the parliament in Tokyo, Wednesday, July 15, 2015.  The parliamentary committee has approved a package of highly controversial security legislation in a vote forced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling bloc disrupted by opponents' massive protests.  The banners held by opposition lawmakers read  "Oppose forcible passage (of the bills)" and "Never forgive Abe's politics." (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

    Opposition lawmakers surround Yasukazu Hamada, right, chairman of the lower house special committee on security legislation, as Hamada continues the committee proceedings at the parliament in Tokyo, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. The parliamentary committee has approved a package of highly controversial security legislation in a vote forced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling bloc disrupted by opponents' massive protests. The banners held by opposition lawmakers read "Oppose forcible passage (of the bills)" and "Never forgive Abe's politics." (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)  (The Associated Press)

  • Yasukazu Hamada, top right, the chairman of the lower house special committee on security legislation, is surrounded by opposition lawmakers as Hamada continues the committee proceedings against a group of opposition lawmakers, at the parliament in Tokyo, Wednesday, July 15, 2015.  The Japanese parliamentary committee has approved a package of highly controversial security legislation in a vote forced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling bloc disrupted by opponents’ massive protests.  The banners held by opposition lawmakers read  "Oppose forcible passage (of the bills)" and "Never forgive Abe's politics." (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

    Yasukazu Hamada, top right, the chairman of the lower house special committee on security legislation, is surrounded by opposition lawmakers as Hamada continues the committee proceedings against a group of opposition lawmakers, at the parliament in Tokyo, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. The Japanese parliamentary committee has approved a package of highly controversial security legislation in a vote forced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling bloc disrupted by opponents’ massive protests. The banners held by opposition lawmakers read "Oppose forcible passage (of the bills)" and "Never forgive Abe's politics." (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)  (The Associated Press)

  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pauses during the lower house special committee on security legislation at the parliament in Tokyo, Wednesday, July 15, 2015.  The Japanese parliamentary committee has approved security legislation to expand the role of Japan's military despite vocal protests from opposition lawmakers and citizens. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pauses during the lower house special committee on security legislation at the parliament in Tokyo, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. The Japanese parliamentary committee has approved security legislation to expand the role of Japan's military despite vocal protests from opposition lawmakers and citizens. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)  (The Associated Press)

A Japanese parliamentary committee has approved security legislation to expand the role of Japan's military despite vocal protests from opposition lawmakers and citizens.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling bloc forced the vote Wednesday by the lower house's national security committee, paving the way for a full house vote Thursday.

Abe says Japan should better prepare for China's regional threat.

One bill would allow the Japanese military a greater role, including the defense of foreign allies that come under attack.

Another would expand the military's international peacekeeping role.

The legislation has been unpopular.

Opposition lawmakers tried to stop the committee vote Wednesday as hundreds of citizens protested outside.

Many constitution experts say the legislation is unconstitutional. Polls find that about 80 percent of Japanese also have concerns.