Japan

Cabinet support rate up to 50%; 53% back pressure on N Korea: poll

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The public approval rating for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet remains almost unchanged at 50.8 percent, while more than half support boosting pressure on North Korea to address its nuclear weapons and missile programs, a Kyodo News poll showed Sunday.

Nearly half of respondents expressed opposition to a potential constitutional revision proposed by Abe, who wants an explicit reference to Japan's Self-Defense Forces added to the war-renouncing Article 9, compared with around 40 percent who expressed support.

The approval rating rose 1.1 points from the previous poll in January, according to the results of the two-day nationwide telephone survey conducted Saturday and Sunday. The disapproval rating for the cabinet stood at 36.9 percent.

On North Korea, 53.0 percent favored putting more pressure on the country to compel it to give up its nuclear and missile development programs, while 40.0 percent hoped the issue would be addressed through dialogue.

The survey was conducted after North Korea sent a high-level delegation to attend the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The poll also showed 29.2 percent want Abe to remain prime minister by winning the leadership election of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in September.

Among other party members, Shigeru Ishiba, a former LDP secretary general and defense minister, was favored by 21.3 percent, while Shinjiro Koizumi, the party's chief deputy secretary general and a son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, was favored by 19.5 percent.

As discussions over the possible amendment of Article 9 gather momentum within the LDP, the survey also asked about the second paragraph of the article that renounces the right to maintain military forces and other war potential as well as the right to wage war.

The paragraph has long complicated the status of the SDF, widely regarded as a quasi military.

Of the respondents, 38.3 percent supported retaining the paragraph and adding an explicit reference to the SDF, 26.0 percent called for the removal of the paragraph to clarify the role of the SDF and 24.9 percent said a constitutional amendment is unnecessary.

The LDP plans to finalize its amendment proposals, which are expected to cover topics including Article 9, by its annual convention on March 25.

Meanwhile, 49.9 percent opposed revising the supreme law under the Abe administration, while 38.5 percent were supportive.

Regarding a controversial government decision to sell state-owned land at a heavily discounted price to educational entity Moritomo Gakuen, 66.8 percent were in favor of summoning Nobuhisa Sagawa, former director general of the Finance Ministry's Financial Bureau, to the Diet.

Sagawa, who currently heads the National Tax Agency, said when he appeared before a Diet committee last year that documents related to the land deal had been discarded. Opposition parties have been urging him to provide a further explanation after the ministry recently disclosed new in-house documents with contents apparently related to negotiations on the land sale.

The survey, covering 731 randomly selected households with eligible voters, as well as 1,127 mobile phone numbers, obtained responses from 502 and 514 people, respectively.

© KYODO

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