Japan parliament committee OKs bills to expand role of Japanese military

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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.