• Kyodo

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The public approval rating for the Cabinet has inched up to 50.8 percent in the latest survey, with more than half of respondents backing its policy of pressuring North Korea to halt its nuclear weapons and missile development programs.

The approval rating is 1.1 points higher than in the previous poll in January.

The Cabinet’s disapproval rating meanwhile stood at 36.9 percent, inching up slightly from 36.6 percent in the previous survey in January.

The results of the Kyodo News poll, released Sunday, also show that nearly half of the public opposes Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s proposal to amend the Constitution by inserting an “explicit reference” into war-renouncing Article 9 to legitimize the Self-Defense Forces. Around 40 percent said they support the idea.

The two-day nationwide telephone survey was conducted Saturday and Sunday on 731 randomly selected households with eligible voters and 1,127 mobile phone numbers, drawing responses from 502 and 514 people, respectively. Traditionally, no margin of error is provided.

On North Korea, 53.0 percent favored putting more pressure on Pyongyang to compel it to give up its nuclear and missile development programs, while 40.0 percent favored addressing the issue via dialogue.

The survey was conducted after North Korea sent a high-level delegation to attend the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The poll also showed 29.2 percent want Abe to remain prime minister by winning the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s leadership election in September.

Among his rivals, former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba, a former defense minister, was favored by 21.3 percent, while Shinjiro Koizumi, the chief deputy secretary-general and son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, was favored by 19.5 percent.

As discussions over Abe’s bid to amend Article 9 gather momentum within the LDP, the survey sought opinions about a proposal to revise its second paragraph, which renounces Japan’s right to maintain military forces and other war potential, as well as the right to wage war.

The paragraph has long complicated the status of the SDF, which is widely regarded as a quasi-military entity.

Of the respondents, 38.3 percent supported keeping the paragraph and adding an “explicit reference” to the SDF, 26.0 percent called for ditching the paragraph to clarify the role of the SDF, and 24.9 percent said an amendment was unnecessary.

The LDP plans to finalize its amendment proposals by its annual convention on March 25.

In the meantime, 49.9 percent said they oppose revising the supreme law under the Abe administration and 38.5 percent said they don’t.

Regarding the government’s shady decision to give a sweetheart deal for a plot of state-owned land to educational entity Moritomo Gakuen, which has been linked to Abe’s wife, 66.8 percent were in favor of summoning Nobuhisa Sagawa, the former director-general of the Finance Ministry’s Financial Bureau, to the Diet.

Sagawa, who now heads the National Tax Agency, said when he appeared before a Diet committee last year that documents related to the land deal had been discarded. Opposition parties have been urging him to provide a further explanation after the ministry recently disclosed new in-house documents with contents apparently related to the Moritomo negotiations.

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