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61% back Abe’s readiness to meet N. Korean leader without conditions, Kyodo News poll

Around 61 percent of voters support Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s stance of seeking talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without a guarantee of progress on the issue of Japanese nationals abducted decades ago, a Kyodo News survey showed Sunday.


In the nationwide telephone poll conducted Saturday and Sunday, the approval rate for Abe’s Cabinet stood at 50.5 percent, down from 51.9 percent in the previous survey conducted in early May. The disapproval rate was 36.2 percent, up from 31.3 percent.


Abe has recently softened his stance toward Pyongyang amid a continuing lack of progress over the past abductions of Japanese nationals. He has been reaching out to Kim by proposing a meeting “without preconditions,” a shift from his previous position that any summit should yield progress on the abduction issue.


In the survey, 61.2 percent said they welcomed Abe’s idea of meeting with Kim without preconditions, while 30.2 percent did not.


The poll also showed persistent opposition to the government’s plan to raise the consumption tax rate from 8 percent to 10 percent in October, with 57.6 percent opposed and 37.6 percent expressing support.


In the latest blow to the government, recent economic data have shown the Japanese economy could be on a downward trend amid protracted trade tensions between the United States and China.


Koichi Hagiuda, executive acting secretary general of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, hinted in April at a postponement of the consumption tax rise, saying, “There could be a different development” depending on the Bank of Japan’s business sentiment survey for June, due out on July 1.


But the government maintains the consumption tax will be raised as planned unless Japan’s economy suffers a shock on the scale of the global financial crisis triggered by the 2008 collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., and Cabinet ministers have played down Hagiuda’s remarks.


Regarding the state of the Japanese economy, only 8.5 percent of respondents said it is getting better, 55.2 percent said it is unchanged and 34.5 percent said it is deteriorating.


Asked whether a House of Representatives election should be held simultaneously with this summer’s House of Councillors race, 47.8 percent agreed while 37.2 percent were opposed.


There is speculation that Abe may call a snap election for the same day as the upper house election to take advantage of opposition parties’ lack of preparation. Simultaneous elections have only been held twice, in 1980 and 1986, when the LDP scored major victories in both houses.


Voters were divided on Abe’s goal to see a revised Constitution take effect in 2020, with 40.1 percent expressing support and 43.9 percent voicing opposition. The war-renouncing Constitution has not been rewritten since it took effect in 1947 under the U.S.-led postwar occupation.


On who should be prime minister, Abe ranked first, with 20.1 percent of support, while Shinjiro Koizumi, a rising star in the LDP and son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, secured 19.9 percent.


Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, dubbed “Uncle Reiwa” on social media following his revelation of the Chinese characters for Japan’s new imperial era that started May 1, was favored by 6.9 percent.


Regarding the upper house election, 38.2 percent said they would vote for the LDP in the proportional representation section, up 0.2 point from the previous survey, and 11.2 percent said they would vote for the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, up 2.5 points.


As for party support rates, the LDP remained the most popular at 40.4 percent, followed by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan at 9.8 percent.


The survey covering 742 randomly selected households with eligible voters as well as 1,253 mobile phone numbers obtained responses from 517 and 515 people, respectively.

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