57% oppose sending SDF to Middle East: survey

Middle East

Over half of voters oppose dispatching Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to the Middle East for a U.S.-led coalition to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz amid heightened tensions with Iran, a Kyodo News survey showed Sunday.

In the nationwide telephone poll conducted Saturday and Sunday, 57.1 percent said Japan should not send the SDF to the region, while 28.2 percent said it should.

The United States has urged Japan to join the coalition but Tokyo is cautious about sending the Maritime Self-Defense Force to the strait as it could undermine its friendly ties with Iran.

The Japanese government is considering sending MSDF destroyers and surveillance planes to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait between Yemen and the Horn of Africa rather than participating in the U.S. effort, with SDF activities overseas restricted under the war-renouncing Constitution, government sources said earlier this month.

The survey also showed that the approval rate for the cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe rose to 50.3 percent, up 1.7 percentage points from the previous poll conducted after the July 21 upper house election. Abe’s ruling camp scored a solid win in the election, though it and other lawmakers supportive of amending the pacifist Constitution lost the two-thirds majority required to initiate constitutional reform.

The disapproval rate stood at 34.6 percent, down 3.6 points.

Regarding the country’s deteriorating relations with South Korea, 62.4 percent said they were concerned about the future path of bilateral relations, while 32.4 percent said they were not.

Bilateral relations have degenerated since South Korean court rulings last year ordering Japanese companies to compensate victims of forced labor during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

The Japanese government placed new restrictions on exports of some materials for use in chips to South Korea on July 1, citing “significant damage to the relationship of mutual trust.” The tighter export controls were followed by the countries deciding to remove each other from their preferential trade lists.

In the survey, 68.1 percent expressed support for the removal of South Korea from the list, while 20.1 percent were opposed.

As for the government’s plan to raise the consumption tax to 10 percent in October from the current 8 percent, 51.3 percent opposed the plan, down from 55.9 percent in the previous survey, while 43.3 percent expressed support, up from 39.8 percent last month.

The tax hike is expected to hurt tepid consumer spending at a time when the escalating U.S.-China trade dispute is threatening to slow global growth.

By party, the LDP was supported by 40.9 percent of respondents, the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan by 10.0 percent and the Komeito party, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, by 5.1 percent.

The Japanese Communist Party and Reiwa Shinsengumi were both supported by 4.3 percent of respondents, while the Japan Innovation Party was at 3.8 percent and the Democratic Party for the People at 1.4 percent.

The survey, covering 738 randomly selected households with eligible voters as well as 1,276 mobile phone numbers, obtained responses from 515 and 516 people, respectively.

© KYODO

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