70% of Japanese public satisfied with Abe-Trump talks, poll shows


Slightly more than 70 percent of Japanese people are satisfied with the recent talks between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump, according to a Kyodo News poll conducted Sunday and Monday.

The poll found that 70.2 percent of respondents reacted positively to the first official talks between Abe and Trump in Washington and Palm Beach, Florida, on Friday and Saturday, while 19.5 percent were dissatisfied.

The support rate for Abe’s Cabinet stood at 61.7 percent in the nationwide survey, up 2.1 points from last month, against a disapproval rate of 27.2 percent.

During their summit, Abe and Trump confirmed plans to strengthen the bilateral alliance and to launch a high-level economic dialogue to cover trade, macroeconomic policy, and infrastructure and energy projects, in a bid to bolster bilateral economic relations.

Trump did not criticize Japan over its sizable trade surplus with the United States, raise currency issues or attack Japan’s automobile trade during the summit in Washington on Friday, Japanese officials said, although prior to the summit he had criticized Tokyo’s economic and monetary policies.

While the Abe-Trump summit drew wide support, the poll found that 75.5 percent of respondents did not understand why Trump issued an executive order to freeze the U.S. refugee program and temporarily bar entry to nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries. Only 16.9 percent said they did.

Abe has been refraining from making comments about Trump’s controversial executive order, saying that a country’s immigration policy is a “domestic matter.”

Over 60 percent of those polled said it was appropriate that Abe played a round of golf with Trump at the president’s Mar-a-Lago vacation estate in Palm Beach where Abe was invited to stay. He stayed there two nights following the summit in Washington.

The poll also showed that 77.3 percent of the respondents backed the joint statement issued following the summit, which affirmed the U.S. commitment to protect Japan in the event the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea come under armed attack. The isles are a major source of friction with China, which claims them.

Over the newly launched high-level economic dialogue to be headed by Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and Vice President Mike Pence, 67.7 percent of those polled said they support it, while 60.2 percent said they agree with Japan’s plan to cooperate to create jobs in the United States.

On domestic matters, 69.5 percent said the way Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda had handled debate in the current Diet session over a contentious bill to criminalize conspiracy to commit terrorism was problematic. Only 14.1 percent said Kaneda’s handling of the matter was fine.

He has faced mounting criticism over his purported intention to suppress Diet debate on the bill.

Also, 66.4 percent of the respondents said they were dissatisfied by Defense Minister Inada Tomomi’s explanation during the current Diet session regarding the seriousness of the South Sudan conflict, where Self-Defense Forces personnel are taking part in U.N. peacekeeping operations.

She said that she used the phrase “armed clashes” in describing the situation in South Sudan because calling it “combat” would be a “problem” under war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution.

Article 9 states that the Japanese people forever renounce war and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

The poll found that 48.2 percent of the respondents hope the government will continue offshore work to build a replacement facility for the Futenma military base in Okinawa, while 41 percent said they want it halted.

The resumption of work off the Henoko coastal area of Nago to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a crowded residential area in the city of Ginowan faces strong local opposition from people who want the base to be moved outside of the prefecture.