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53% say Japan should “first achieve partial return of Northern Territories and then continue negotiations for remaining islands,” Yomiuri poll

In advance of the visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Japan from Dec. 15, the Yomiuri Shimbun’s nationwide public opinion poll (Dec. 2–4) asked respondents about the stance Japan should take in its negotiations with Russia on the return of the Northern Territories. Some 53% said Japan “should first achieve the partial return of the Northern Territories and then continue negotiations for the return of the remaining islands” while 25% said that Japan “should negotiate for the return of all four islands at once.” Meanwhile, 14% said that Japan “should settle on partial reversion.” Therefore, only a small percentage of respondents said they approve of the negotiations ending in “partial return.”

 

When asked if they approve of Prime Minister Abe’s policy of actively promoting economic cooperation with Russia with an eye to resolving the Northern Territories issue, 65% said yes, easily outdistancing the 26% who said no. Some 71% of those who thought Japan “should first achieve the partial return of the Northern Territories and then continue negotiations for the return of the remaining islands” approve of the economic cooperation while 63% of those who said that Japan “should negotiate for the return of all four islands at once” support the cooperation.

 

Respondents are growing increasingly pessimistic about the territorial negotiations, however. Only 13% said that they thought the Putin visit would lead to the resolution of the Northern Territories issue, while 81% said otherwise. Some 30% of those who thought that the Putin visit would not lead to the resolution of the Northern Territories issue disapprove of Abe’s policy of economic cooperation. In the September 2016 survey [conducted Sept. 9–11], 22% of respondents indicated that they thought the presidential visit would lead to the resolution of the issue, while 71% said otherwise, although the question was phrased differently. This decline in pollees’ outlook is thought to reflect the fact that the Russians have not altered their stance that an early breakthrough in the territorial dispute will be difficult.

 

[Polling methodology: The nationwide survey was conducted Dec. 2–4 on a computer-aided random digit dialing (RDD) basis and targeted voters age 18 or over with calls placed to landline and mobile phone numbers. Valid responses were received from a total of 1,073 persons, including 529 persons (out of the 865 households with one or more eligible voters) for landline numbers and 544 persons (out of the 1,306 persons who answered) for mobile numbers. The valid response rates were 61% for landline numbers and 42% for mobile numbers.]

 

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