Japanese man burns himself in defence policy protest

Last updated 09:23 30/06/2014
Reuters

Raw footage of man setting himself ablaze in a busy part of Tokyo in protest of PM Shinzo Abe's changes to the country's military policy.

Police officers and fire-fighters investigate the site where a man set himself on fire at a pedestrian walkway near Shinjuku station in Tokyo.
Reuters
FIRE SCENE: Police officers and fire-fighters investigate the site where a man set himself on fire at a pedestrian walkway near Shinjuku station in Tokyo.

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A man in Japan has set himself on fire at a busy intersection in Tokyo in an apparent protest against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's plans to ease limits of the country's pacifist constitution, police and witnesses said.

Japan is poised for a historic shift in its defence policy by ending a ban that has kept the military from fighting abroad since World War Two.

Abe's cabinet is expected to adopt as early as Tuesday a resolution revising a long-standing interpretation of the US-drafted constitution to lift the ban after his ruling party finalises an agreement with its junior partner.

It was not immediately clear whether the man survived.

A police spokeswoman confirmed the incident, which took place near bustling Shinjuku station, but would not provide further details.

Witnesses said the man, seated on pedestrian bridge, used a megaphone to protest plans to end a ban on exercising "collective self-defence", or aiding a friendly country under attack.

"He was sitting cross legged and was just talking, so I thought it would end without incident. But when I came back to the same place 30 minutes later, he was still there. Then all of a sudden his body was enveloped in fire," said Ryuichiro Nakatsu, an 18-year-old student who witnessed the incident.

"He was yelling against the government, about collective self-defence," he said.

Witnesses said the man was hosed down and carried away.

The planned change in defence strategy marks a major step away from post-war pacifism and widen Japan's military options. 

Conservatives say the charter's war-renouncing Article 9 has excessively restricted Japan's ability to defend itself and that a changing regional power balance including a rising China means Japan's security policies must be more flexible.

The change will likely rile an increasingly assertive China, whose ties with Japan have chilled due to a maritime row, mutual mistrust and the legacy of Japan's past military aggression, but will be welcomed by Tokyo's ally Washington, which has long urged Japan to become a more equal partner in the alliance.

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- Reuters

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