Japan, US delay update to defense cooperation

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TOKYO (AP) — Japan and the United States formally postponed Friday an update to their defense cooperation guidelines.

The two governments said in a joint statement that they would work toward completing it in the first half of next year.

Both sides had hoped to finish by the end of this year, but they decided to wait until the Japanese parliament considers new legislation that would allow its military to play an expanded role. Lawmakers are expected to take up the bills after local elections in April.

The U.S. would like Japan to contribute more to the alliance, but the Japanese military is restricted by a post-World War II constitution that limits the country's use of force.

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved a reinterpretation of the constitution in July that would allow Japan to come to the defense of allies under attack, in limited circumstances. Legislation is also needed to make that a reality, but Abe's government put off plans to introduce the relevant bills at a special session of parliament this fall.

The proposed legislation is expected to faces a tough battle when it does come up for debate.

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