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Abe’s security bills baffle 81% of the public: survey

Kyodo

As the Diet debates controversial legislation to expand the types of missions the Self-Defense Forces can conduct overseas, a survey Sunday found that the vast majority of the public finds the government’s explanations “insufficient.”

In a telephone survey Saturday and Sunday by Kyodo News, only 14.2 percent of the respondents said they had been adequately informed about the details of the legislation by the Abe administration, compared with about 81.4 percent who said they had not.

Also, 68 percent said that passage of the security bills will increase the risk of the SDF getting dragged into an armed conflict, while 26.1 percent said they expected “no change.”

Just 2.6 percent said the legislation would lower the risk.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is trying to get the Diet to pass legislation that would enable the SDF to engage in collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of an ally under armed attack even when Japan itself is not under attack, and to do so without the permission of the Diet.

The bills would also increase the SDF’s logistic support for allies and peacekeeping operations abroad, although those types of missions would require Diet approval in every case.

In the meantime, the public approval rating for Abe’s Cabinet fell 2.8 points from the April survey to 49.9 percent, while its disapproval rating jumped 3.1 points to 38.0 percent, the survey said.

The phone survey, conducted via random dialing, reached 1,456 households with eligible voters and received valid responses from 1,026 people.

The public remains divided over Abe’s push for a “proactive” security policy. Critics and opposition lawmakers say it will undermine the spirit of the war-renouncing Constitution.

Since the start of Diet deliberations in May, the opposition parties have been stepping up pressure on the Abe administration to clarify how it will protect the lives of SDF personnel and stay consistent with Japan’s exclusively defense-oriented policy.

Abe has said a spate of changes to security policy are necessary, and that closer coordination between the SDF and the U.S. military will serve as a deterrent to China’s growing assertiveness and North Korea’s nuclear and missile pursuits.

Until the Abe administration decided to reinterpret the Constitution last July, the government’s stance was that Japan has the right to engage in collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of an ally under armed attack, but cannot exercise it because Article 9 of the Constitution only allows the minimum use of force for self-defense.

Led by Abe, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party aims to amend the U.S.-drafted Constitution for the first time since it took effect in 1947. The latest survey found 46.0 percent in favor and 42.1 percent against the move.

When asked about Abe’s forthcoming statement to mark the 70th anniversary this summer of Japan’s surrender in World War II, 54.5 percent of respondents said Abe should include key words such as “remorse” and “apology” to acknowledge people in other Asian countries victimized by Japan’s “colonial rule and aggression.”

On the contentious plan to move the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma air station elsewhere in Okinawa, 49.6 percent urged Tokyo to stop the preparatory landfill work for the replacement facility and 37.2 percent backed Tokyo in forging ahead with the long-delayed project.

Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga and many residents of the prefecture remain opposed to the bilateral plan to move the base from densely populated Ginowan to the coast of Nago. Okinawa hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan.