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OPINION POLLS

55% say that Japan should take a “tougher stance” in relation to China, Nikkei poll

  • August 29, 2016
  • , Nikkei , p. 2
  • JMH Translation

With bilateral summit meetings with China and Russia on the horizon, the Nikkei Inc. conducted a public opinion poll [on Aug. 26–28] to probe views on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s diplomatic approach. In light of the repeated intrusion by Chinese government vessels into Japan’s territorial waters, 55% of respondents said that Japan “should take a tougher stance” toward China. With the lack of progress in the relocation of the statue representing comfort women, which is currently situated in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, opposition to Japan’s decision to support former comfort women is smoldering. Abe will engage with foreign leaders this autumn while monitoring public opinion in Japan.

 

Since the beginning of August in advance of the day marking the end of WWII, Chinese government vessels and fishing boats have repeatedly entered Japanese territorial waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands. Chinese navigation in Japan’s contiguous zone has become normal practice, and the Japan government has repeatedly issued protests. At the same time, the Japanese and Chinese governments are arranging a Japan-China summit between Prime Minister Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping to take place on the sidelines of the G20 Hangzhou Summit at the beginning of September.

 

Some 62% of cabinet supporters and 63% of Liberal Democratic Party supporters think Japan “should take a tougher stance” toward China. Among Democratic Party supporters and Komeito supporters, those saying Japan “should place greater emphasis on dialogue” exceeded those in favor of adopting a tougher stance. Among independents, 47% thought Japan “should take a tougher stance,” exceeding the 40% who said Japan “should place greater emphasis on dialogue.”

 

Turning to Japan-South Korea relations, South Korea promised in the December 2015 bilateral agreement on comfort women to “work toward a resolution” of the issue of relocating the statue symbolizing comfort women, which is currently located in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. Although no concrete progress has been made on the statue removal, Japan has decided to contribute 1 billion yen to the South Korean fund to support former comfort women, with an eye to promoting amelioration of the bilateral relationship.

 

Some 49% of pollees “oppose” the donation of funds amid the lack of progress on Japan’s request that the statue be relocated, exceeding the 37% who are “in favor” of the decision to make the contribution. More than half (52%) of cabinet supporters and LDP supporters are “opposed” to the decision. Independents are also critical of Japan’s move, with 48% “opposed” and 30%“in favor.”

 

At present, there are no signs that the government’s stance toward South Korea has led to dissatisfaction with the Abe administration. South Korea is searching for the proper timing for the relocation of the statue while keeping a close eye on domestic public opinion, but it is uncertain when the statue will actually be moved. If the relocation of the statue seems difficult to achieve, conservatives in Japan may be frustrated.

 

Prime Minister Abe sees the Northern Territories as the most important issue in the bilateral relationship with Russia. Abe will meet with President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok, Russia, on Sept. 2 and wants to launch a process to arrange a Japan visit by Putin at year-end.

 

When asked about negotiations to return the Northern Territories, some 54% of respondents said that Japan “should negotiate to have some of the islands returned,” exceeding the 36% who thought Japan “should negotiate to have all four islands returned.” This can be interpreted as the Japanese public’s seeking a realistic resolution. All eyes will be on the extent to which the “new approach” to territorial negotiations confirmed in May by the national leaders will be implemented.

 

Q: Do you approve of the economic policy package known as Abenomics?

 

Yes

40%

No

43%

 

Q: Do you approve of the Bank of Japan’s negative interest rates?

 

Yes

33%

No

47%

 

Q: Do you think commodity prices will rise in the future?

 

Yes

60%

No

33%

 

Q: Amid the repeated intrusion by Chinese vessels into Japanese territorial waters, what kind of stance should Japan take toward China?

 

Japan should take a tougher stance

55%

Japan should place greater emphasis on dialogue

37%

 

Q: Are you in favor or opposed to Japan’s contribution of about 1 billion yen to support former comfort women while the statue representing comfort women remains in place in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul?

 

In favor

37%

Opposed

49%

 

Q: How should Japan negotiate with Russia regarding the Northern Territories?

 

Japan should negotiate to have all four islands returned

36%

Japan should negotiate to have some of the islands returned

54%

 

 

[Polling methodology: The telephone poll was conducted on Aug. 26–28 by Nikkei Research Inc. of men and women, aged 18 and over, nationwide on a random digit dialing (RDD) basis, including cell phones [as well as landlines]. A total of 1,055 valid responses were received for a response rate of 47.0%.]

 

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