Japan's lower house of parliament has approved legislation that would allow an expanded role for the nation's military in a vote boycotted by the opposition.

The vote Thursday came one day after Prime Minster Shinzo Abe's ruling bloc forced the bills through a committee despite intensifying protests.

Abe wants to strengthen the military's role to counter China's growing presence in the region and contribute more to international peacekeeping efforts.

The legislation was crafted after his Cabinet last year adopted a new interpretation to Japan's pacifist constitution, which has been in place since the end of World War II.

The legislation now moves to the upper chamber of parliament for further debate and a vote within 60 days.