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Nearly half of Japanese oppose new joint defense guidelines with U.S.: poll

Kyodo

Nearly half of people surveyed were opposed to the revised Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines announced earlier this week to give Japanese troops an expanded role beyond the country’s vicinity, a Kyodo News poll found Thursday.

While 47.9 percent said they were against the guidelines, 35.5 percent supported it, according to the telephone survey conducted on Wednesday and Thursday.

The approval rating for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stood at 52.7 percent, down 2.7 percentage points from the previous poll in March.

On Abe’s bid to enact legislation for Japan to play a greater security role based on the revised guidelines, 48.4 percent were opposed to his doing so during the ongoing Diet session through June, almost unchanged from the preceding survey.

Abe is expected to issue a statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in August, and 50.4 percent of respondents said he should use keywords such as “remorse” and “apology” for people in other Asian countries that suffered under Japan’s “colonial rule and aggression.”

In the first address by a Japanese leader to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Wednesday, Abe expressed “deep repentance” over Japan’s role in the war, but he did not offer an apology for Japan’s wartime actions.

Touting the strengthening of the alliance with the U.S., Abe said he would push to have lawmakers pass security bills by this summer that would allow the Self-Defense Forces to defend allies under armed attack even when Japan itself is not.

As for the controversial issue of moving U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to a replacement facility within Okinawa Prefecture, 45.6 percent expressed opposition to the government policy of forging ahead with underwater work for reclamation to build the facility, while 40.1 percent expressed support.

Meanwhile, 70.6 percent backed Japan-U.S. cooperation in defending islands, which was stipulated in the new bilateral defense guidelines in an apparent reference to remote islands such as the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands, which are also claimed by China and Taiwan, in the East China Sea.

By political party, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party was supported by 37.6 percent, down 4.5 points from the last survey, while 7.7 percent backed the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, up 1.2 points. A total of 36.4 percent said they do not endorse any particular party.

The survey, which was conducted by calling randomly selected households, reached 1,447 households with eligible voters and received valid responses from 1,020 people.