May 1, 2017 2:00 am JST

Japanese public supports tougher sanctions on North Korea

Nearly two-thirds call Abe government careless over spate of scandals

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

TOKYO -- Roughly half of the public in Japan considers international sanctions against North Korea the best response to the country's continuing nuclear and missile development, a new Nikkei Inc./TV Tokyo survey shows.

Of the 1,579 respondents, 51% called for sanctions to be ramped up, while 30% expressed a preference for dialogue and just 14% said military action should be considered.

Tensions have mounted between North Korea and the U.S. over Pyongyang's provocative actions, including three ballistic missile tests in April. Washington has turned up the pressure with a show of military force, a strategy that 51% of respondents praised and 40% disapproved of. By gender, 61% of men but only 37% of women expressed approval.

On the domestic front, the government has been rocked by a string of gaffes and scandals. Among them is the resignation of Masahiro Imamura, the disaster reconstruction minister who deemed it a "good thing" that the 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck the northeastern Tohoku region rather than the Tokyo area.

Asked whether Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government has been careless about scandals, 64% agreed, while just 30% disagreed. Yet the cabinet's approval rating changed little from the previous poll in March, edging down just 2 percentage points to 60%. The trend was similar among respondents with no party affiliation, accounting for about 30% of the total, with approval falling from 38% to 36%.

Of those accusing the Abe administration of laxity, 51% still said they support the cabinet. A senior official in the ruling coalition said this is "probably a sign that the public is looking for a stable government, given the tensions over North Korea."

"The public is calm for now, but we can't be complacent," the official said, indicating that the coalition will keep watching the polls.

The lack of influence of parties besides the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is likely another factor, a top LDP official noted. Support for the opposition Democratic Party sits at just 9% and has remained stuck at around 10% even as the party has aggressively pursued a scandal involving the cut-rate sale of state-owned land to the operator of a nationalistic school.

Nikkei Research surveyed individuals 18 and older via random-digit dialing from Thursday to Sunday, drawing a response rate of 48.4%.

(Nikkei)

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