TOKYO -- A slight majority of Japanese believe that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should be cautious in his efforts to improve relations with China, a Nikkei Inc./TV Tokyo survey finds.
Territorial and other issues have overshadowed ties between the countries in recent years. But Abe need not rush to mend fences with China if that means Japan has to make concessions, said 53% of survey respondents. On the other hand, 32% said Japan may have to make concessions if doing so serves to improve relations.
Opinion was also divided among respondents identifying themselves with the ruling coalition. A plurality of those supporting the smaller Komeito party said concessions were an inevitable part of advancing relations with China.
The poll, conducted from Friday through Sunday, showed that the approval rating of Abe's cabinet down slightly at 52%, little changed from the 54% in the previous survey on Nov. 1-2. Disapproval remained almost flat as well, up 1 percentage point to 39%.
While Beijing is becoming more assertive in the South China Sea, heightening tensions in the region, Abe refrained from directly criticizing China during a string of meetings with Asian leaders earlier this month. He said only that any disputes in the South China Sea should be resolved peacefully based on international law.
Abe seeks to hold a three-way summit with China and South Korea at an early date and is also working to visit China and host a reciprocal visit to Japan by Chinese President Xi Jinping next year.
Asked how the international community should deal with North Korea's continued nuclear and missile tests, 53% of respondents said economic sanctions should be strengthened, up 9 points from when the same question was posed in a survey in late August. Meanwhile, 31% favored dialogue as a means of resolving the issue -- down 6 points -- and 9% said military action should be considered, down 5 points.
The approval rating of the opposition Party of Hope, launched by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike before last month's snap election, dropped by half from the previous survey to just 2%. Public support for the Constitutional Democratic Party remained unchanged at 14%. Both parties split from the Democratic Party leading up to the general election, in which Hope suffered a crushing defeat. Koike has stepped down as leader, and the party's support continues to tumble.
The approval rating of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party fell 5 points to 39% but stayed far above the leading opposition's. People who do not support any particular party increased 7 points to 30%.
Funding free education
Abe's government is considering introducing free education programs. One proposal aims to make nurseries for children ages three to five free for all households. But 57% of respondents said high-income earners should shoulder a portion of the costs, while 26% said the program should be free regardless of parents' income.
The survey was conducted by Nikkei Research, targeting individuals aged 18 and older via random-digit dialing. It received 1,013 responses, for a response rate of 49.4%.