Japan retakes ‘top U.S. partner’ slot

JIJI

More U.S. citizens see Japan as America’s most important partner than any other country in Asia, a recent Foreign Ministry survey showed.

Some 50 percent of U.S. citizens consider Japan most important, up 19 percentage points from the previous year, the ministry said. China was No. 2, with 39 percent, the same percentage as last year. Japan retook the top slot after being overtaken by China in that survey.

Commissioned by the ministry, the survey was conducted by polling service Gallup Inc. in February and March on 1,200 members of the general public and 200 “opinion leaders” — people in leading positions in government, big business, academia and other sectors in the U.S.

Among the opinion leaders, China ranked No. 1 at 54 percent, up 8 points, while Japan came second at 40 percent, up 12 points. Beijing remained at the top for the third straight year.

In ranking the most important U.S. partner, respondents had previously been asked to choose from only three countries — Japan, China and Russia — but Australia, South Korea and India were added to the list last year.

This made it difficult to easily compare the results, a Foreign Ministry official said, adding that there had been an abundance of goodwill toward Japan from U.S. citizens as the country rebuilds from the March 2011 disasters.

The percentage of the U.S. general public that found Japan trustworthy stood at 84 percent, while that of opinion leaders came to 90 percent, both unchanged from the previous year.