TOKYO: Japanese Twitter users were howling in derision Wednesday after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe used paper models and cut-out firefighters on television, in his latest attempt to explain controversial security legislation.
Apparently concerned about declining public support and suspicion of bills that will allow so-called “collective defence”, Abe used props on two different programmes to try to persuade the public of his case.
Under current laws “Japan cannot help the United States extinguish a fire” in an American home, he told viewers of Fuji TV on Monday, gesturing to a large paper house with a US flag.
Hanging over the paper house was something supposed to resemble fire — viewers said it looked more like raw meat. Abe then placed an American fire truck in front of the house, along with the small cardboard figure of a firefighter.
At a more modest house nearby, decorated with a Japanese flag, Japanese firefighters stood by and watched the conflagration, powerless to act, the premier said.
Under bills that passed through the lower house of parliament last week, which allow Japanese troops to fight alongside allies when under attack, these “firefighters” would no longer be impotent, Abe told viewers.
The demonstration, which would not have looked out of place on Sesame Street, attracted mockery on the Internet.
“Fire and war are totally different. How arrogant of him to deceive the public with a trick that can only fool kids,” Tweeted @cassiuscanelo.
“It’s scary he believes he can give an explanation by using the example of fire. Our prime minister is such a juvenile man,” @lautrea said.
Opinion polls in recent weeks have shown support for the once-popular prime minister is plunging.
The security bills, which Abe and his supporters say are necessary for Japan to deal with the world around it, are deeply unpopular in the country at large.
Chief among the changes that the legislation will enable is the option for the military to go into battle to protect allies — so called “collective defence” — even if there is no direct threat to Japan or its people.
Protesters, who include a large number of women and elderly people, say that will mean Japan gets dragged into American wars in far-flung parts of the globe.