National / Politics

61% of Japanese back Abe plan to meet North Korean leader without conditions, survey finds

Kyodo

Around 61 percent of voters support Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s stance of seeking talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without a guarantee of progress on the issue of Japanese nationals abducted decades ago, a Kyodo News survey showed Sunday.

In the nationwide telephone poll conducted Saturday and Sunday, the approval rate for Abe’s Cabinet stood at 50.5 percent, down from 51.9 percent in the previous survey conducted in early May. The disapproval rate was 36.2 percent, up from 31.3 percent.

Abe has recently softened his stance toward Pyongyang amid a continuing lack of progress over the past abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents. He has been reaching out to Kim by proposing a meeting “without preconditions,” a shift from his previous position that any summit should yield progress on the abduction issue.

In the survey, 61.2 percent said they welcomed Abe’s idea of meeting with Kim without preconditions, while 30.2 percent did not.

On the government’s plan to raise the consumption tax from 8 percent to 10 percent in October, 57.6 percent expressed opposition, while 37.6 percent were supportive.

The government maintains the consumption tax will be raised as planned unless Japan’s economy suffers a shock on the scale of the global financial crisis triggered by the 2008 collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

Recent economic data have shown the Japanese economy could be on a downward trend amid protracted trade tensions between the United States and China.

Koichi Hagiuda, executive acting secretary-general of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, hinted in April at a postponement, saying, “There could be a different development” depending on the Bank of Japan’s business sentiment survey for June, due out on July 1.

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