Newsweek causes stir by reporting ‘Japan wants war’ with North Korea

by Daisuke Kikuchi

Staff Writer

A Newsweek story that apparently misinterpreted the results of an opinion poll carried out by a Japanese news agency last week is creating a public stir.

The headline of the story, published Nov. 18 on Newsweek’s website, concluded: “Japan wants war with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, not dialogue, new poll shows.”

The Jiji Press survey in question, however, found that 53.9 percent of respondents support Japan and the United States using “pressure” to deal with North Korea, versus 39.4 percent who prefer dialogue. The survey didn’t ask any questions about war as an option.

Domestically, “pressure” is usually interpreted as meaning economic sanctions and tough diplomacy.

On Friday, a TV Asahi show described the Newsweek story as “shocking” and “a huge mistake.” The website Netgeek meanwhile slammed Newsweek’s article as “fake news.”

The author of the article was Cristina Silva. The Jiji Press survey was published on The Japan Times website on Nov. 18, and the Newsweek story refers to the story as being “reported” by The Japan Times.

The main text of Newsweek’s story read: “Roughly 54 percent of people surveyed … said they want Japan and the United States to take steps toward reining in North Korea.”

But the sentence was worded differently in a caption for a video clip attached to the story. That caption said: “53.9% of the Japanese public support using force against North Korea.”

The Japan Times on Friday requested an immediate correction for the headline and video caption via Newsweek’s correction page but had not received a response as of Friday evening.

Jiji’s poll, published Nov. 17, was an interview-based survey conducted earlier this month over a four-day period on 2,000 people aged 18 years or over nationwide. Jiji received valid responses from 63 percent of those polled.