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Politics

Most Japanese wary of security reform

TOKYO -- Most Japanese neither support the passage of new defense legislation this Diet session nor feel that the government has adequately explained the proposed changes, a weekend poll by Nikkei Inc. and TV Tokyo shows.

     Only 25% of respondents wanted legislation allowing the use of collective self-defense to be passed this session, down 4 points from the last poll in April. Those opposing such developments rose 3 points to 55%, demonstrating persistent doubts among the general public over security-related reforms.

     The right to collective self-defense, or the right to defend U.S. forces and other allies even when Japan is not directly under attack, is a key aspect of the proposed new security framework. Other potential changes include expanding the role of the Japan Self-Defense Forces overseas. The bills could mark a turning point in Japan's post-Word War II security policy.

     Government explanations of the reform have been insufficient, 80% of respondents said. Only 8% were satisfied. Even among supporters of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and specifically of the current cabinet, 73% thought more explanation was needed. Fifteen percent of cabinet supporters and 14% of LDP supporters thought Tokyo's efforts have been sufficient.

     Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stressed that Japan will never be entangled in a U.S. war under the new framework. But 73% of all respondents were not convinced, while just 15% were. LDP and cabinet supporters were also doubtful -- 27% said they believed Abe, while 61% said they did not. A whopping 91% of respondents who opposed the current government were skeptical, as were 79% of independents.

     Those supporting a larger overseas role for the SDF decreased by 2 points from March, when this issue was posed, to 41%, while those opposing such measures increased 3 points to 44%.

     The ruling coalition plans to significantly extend the current Diet session, scheduled to end on June 24, in order to pass the new security legislation. Forty-three percent of cabinet supporters were behind this, outnumbering the 38% who were not. But a vast majority, or 84%, of those who opposed Abe's cabinet disapproved, while just 8% supported the move.

     There was also a divide among supporters of the LDP and coalition partner Komeito. While 42% of LDP supporters approved and 35% disapproved of the extended session, the figures among Komeito were slightly shy of 20% and just over 60%, respectively.

     Overall cabinet approval remained mostly flat, falling 2 points from April to 50%. Disapproval ratings edged up by a point to 36%. Approval for the LDP and the leading opposition Democratic Party of Japan both climbed 2 points to 43% and 11%, respectively. The number of respondents identifying as independent dropped 6 points to 27%.

     When asked about the Futenma U.S. air base in Okinawa, 33% thought it should be relocated to the Henoko district as planned, marking a 3-point dip from April. Those supporting a revision to the plan rose by a percentage point to 48%.

Divided on history

There was a near-even split over the war anniversary speech Abe plans to give this summer, with 37% in support of the use of terms such as "colonial rule and aggression" and "apology" from past addresses and 38% in opposition.

     Among cabinet supporters, 32% said such terms should be included, as opposed to the 49% who said they should not. Meanwhile, 51% of those that did not support the cabinet believed the terms should be used, greatly outnumbering the 28% opposed.

     About 30% of LDP supporters backed the use of the phrases, while more than 40% of Komeito supporters agreed. Roughly 60% of DPJ supporters also endorsed the terms.

     In terms of age groups, 48% of respondents in their 60s were in favor of the terms, while 41% were not. Only 30% of those in their 20s and 30s supported including the phrases, with 51% opposed.

     Abe expressed "deep remorse" over World War II when he addressed the U.S. Congress in late April, but did not comment on Japan's "aggression" or offer apologies as China and South Korea had hoped.

     The telephone survey was taken from Friday to Sunday, with responses obtained from 1,033 households, or 68.9% of the 1,499 randomly selected households with eligible voters.

(Nikkei)

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