A record 29.9 percent of Japanese say they want the Self-Defense Forces’ capabilities boosted, a government survey said.
The figure was up 5.1 percentage points from a survey three years ago, and almost twice the 2009 figure, after which SDF personnel were involved in search-and-rescue operations in the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
Despite the record-high, a majority of respondents — 59.2 percent — said the SDF’s capabilities can be kept at their current level, the Cabinet Office survey said Saturday.
Some 71.5 percent of respondents have “a lot of interest” or “some degree of interest” in the SDF and defense issues, up 1.7 points to its highest level since the question was added to the survey in 1978.
The office surveyed 3,000 adults nationwide, of whom 56.0 percent responded, from Jan. 8 to 18. The survey is carried out every three years.
In addition to their disaster response, debate on national security — particularly surrounding the Cabinet’s decision last July to reinterpret the pacifist Constitution to allow the country to use the right to collective self-defense — may have heightened public awareness of the SDF.
Some 92.2 percent of respondents said they have a good impression of the SDF, the highest since the survey began in 1969. Just 4.8 percent said they have a bad impression of the SDF.
Respondents who agreed or somewhat agreed that Japan risks becoming involved in a war in light of current global circumstances comprised 75.5 percent, up 3.2 points from 2012.
When respondents were asked to name multiple issues involving peace and security that interest them, China’s military modernization and maritime disputes topped the table with 60.5 percent, up 14.5 points.
According to Defense Ministry officials, the increased interest reflects an opinion that Chinese activity around the Senkaku Islands and surrounding areas in the East China Sea are a major threat.
The uninhabited islets are controlled by Japan but claimed by China, which calls them Diaoyu, and Taiwan, which calls them Tiaoyutai.
The situation on the Korean Peninsula was of interest to 52.7 percent of respondents, down 12.2 points from 2012, while the activities of global terrorist groups were cited by 42.6 percent of respondents, up 12.3 points.
Of respondents who said defense cooperation with countries other than the United States is of use to Japan’s peace and security, 40.8 percent said cooperation with South Korea is useful, down 20.7 points from 2012, while 40.3 percent answered that cooperation with China is useful, down 21.4 points.