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The public approval rating for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi now stands at 54.6 percent, up 4.6 percentage points from December, according to the results of a Kyodo News survey released Monday.

The disapproval rating for the Koizumi Cabinet has fallen by 3.6 points to 30.8 percent, the news agency said.

Kyodo contacted 1,623 eligible voters on a random basis by telephone on Saturday and Sunday, of whom 1,061 gave valid responses.

Some 88.4 percent of survey respondents said they viewed North Korea’s nuclear arms program as a threat, with 53.9 percent describing this scenario as a “serious threat.” Pyongyang withdrew last week from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

North Korea’s nuclear arms program was a major topic of debate during Koizumi’s recent visit to Russia.

The prime minister’s efforts to gain Moscow’s cooperation to forge a breakthrough in the Tokyo-Pyongyang diplomatic stalemate may have contributed to the rise in his approval rating, the news agency said.

Although the results of the survey show that 74.8 percent of respondents want Koizumi to dissolve the House of Representatives for a general election by the end of the year, many of those polled said an election should be held in the latter half of 2003.

While the current four-year tenure of Lower House members runs through June 2004, speculation is rife that Koizumi may dissolve the chamber and call a snap election, in part to bolster his chances of being re-elected as leader of the Liberal Democratic Party in September.

According to the survey, public support for the majority of major political parties, including the LDP, has fallen from the levels recorded in the December poll.

Support for the LDP reportedly stands at 33.1 percent, down from 33.6 percent; that for the Democratic Party of Japan stands at 7.1 percent, down from 9.1 percent; that for the Liberal Party stands at 2 percent, down from 3.5 percent; that for the Japanese Communist Party stands at 2.1 percent, down from 4.5 percent; and that for the Social Democratic Party stands at 1.8 percent, down from 2.1 percent

Only the approval rating for New Komeito, one of the LDP’s coalition partners, has risen, to 3.7 percent from 3.4 percent.

The number of respondents who said they do not support any particular party shot up 6.7 percentage points to 47.9 percent.

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