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Two-thirds of public against easing weapons export curbs: poll

Kyodo

Two-thirds of the public opposes loosening the nation’s controls on arms exports but just over a quarter support it, according to an opinion poll conducted over the weekend.

The results signal widespread concerned about the government’s recent changes to Japan’s self-imposed restrictions on arms exports.

According to the nationwide telephone survey, which covered 1,418 households with eligible voters and drew 1,011 responses, those opposed to relaxing arms controls exceeded those in favor across all age groups. Among women, 74.7 percent said they were opposed.

The survey, conducted by Kyodo News, also said that 66.8 percent opposed easing arms restrictions and 25.7 percent supported it.

In 1967, Japan adopted its “three principles” for arms exports to block the transfer of weapons to communist states, countries subject to embargoes under U.N. resolutions, and those involved in international conflicts.

The rules turned into a virtual blanket ban in 1976, with some exceptions by past governments.

In 2011, Japan relaxed the rules to allow arms exports for humanitarian and peaceful purposes, and to make it easier to participate in the lucrative business of joint development and production of weapons.

Regarding the negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact, the survey said 65.6 percent of the respondents believe Japan will eventually have to cut tariffs to join the free trade pact, while 26.2 percent said Japan should stand fast.

Japan wants to retain duties on five sensitive categories of farm products — rice, beef and pork, wheat, dairy and sugar. But the TPP talks are based on the principle of scrapping all tariffs.

In the meantime, the approval rating for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe fell 2 points to 53.9 percent from the previous poll in late January. But its disapproval rating declined as well, from 31.0 percent in the previous survey to 29.7 percent.

The poll also showed that the gap on nuclear plant restarts is narrowing significantly, with those opposed dropping to 54.9 percent from 60.2 percent in the January poll, and those in favor rising to 39 percent from 31.6 percent.

As for exercising the right to collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of an ally under attack, 51 percent were opposed and 38.9 percent were supportive.

On the diplomatic front, 49.2 percent said that Japan should accelerate efforts to mend ties with China and South Korea over territorial and historical disputes, while 46 percent said they do not see any need to hurry.

Regarding the sales tax hike in April to 8 percent from 5 percent, 67.2 percent said they are considering curbing consumption, while 31.5 percent said they will not hold back.

By political party, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party was supported by 42.9 percent of the respondents, while the opposition leader, the Democratic Party of Japan, was backed by 5.3 percent. Buddhist-backed New Komeito, the LDP’s ruling coalition partner, was supported by 4.7 percent.