Japan's ruling party pushed forward bills allowing the military to fight overseas for the first time since World War II, Reuters reported.
The move had been highly contested, with both opposition leaders and protesters rallying against the legislation. In the days leading up to the legislative committee vote, thousands gathered for anti-war demonstrations outside the parliament building in Tokyo. As many as 13,000 rallied on Wednesday night, ABC Australia calculated.
According to The Associated Press, opponents have vowed to block the legislation's passage. A fight between lawmakers even broke out on Thursday as the chairman of the committee announced the vote. Opposition leaders stormed and surrounded the chairman's bench, shouting and eventually throwing punches. Watch the fight below:
The legislation would allow troops to fight overseas even in times of peace. These new policies would be a stark shift from the nation's pacifistic constitution. After its World War II defeat, Japan adopted a new constitution that contained an amendment specifically banning the country from maintaining military forces.
"Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes," an English translation of its constitution reads. "In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized."
As one protester told The Guardian, "The Japanese constitution guarantees respect for human rights and is pro-peace. It calls on everyone to work together to realize its aims, and now Abe has come along and decided he wants to destroy all that."
Protesters have also called for Abe's resignation.