More than 60 percent of voters oppose the Abe administration’s plan to lift the nation’s self-imposed ban on exercising the right to collective self-defense, according to an Asahi Shimbun survey, reflecting growing concern about the Self-Defense Forces working closer with Washington.
Whereas the latest survey showed 52 percent of citizens support the Abe Cabinet more than a year after it came to power, a greater number of respondents than in the previous survey said they believe Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's efforts to enhance military ties with the United States will negatively impact the regional situation in East Asia.
Questionnaires were mailed to 3,000 voters, and 68 percent of them, or 2,045, provided valid responses. The survey was conducted between February and March.
While Abe is seeking to reinterpret the pacifist Constitution to allow Japan to come to the military assistance of an ally under attack, 63 percent of respondents said Japan should stick to its long-established interpretation that Article 9 of the Constitution prohibits that right. That compares with 56 percent who responded in the same manner in the previous survey, conducted between March and April in 2013. Only 29 percent said the state should lift the ban.
Even among voters who support Abe's Cabinet or his ruling Liberal Democratic Party, more than 50 percent said the prohibition should be maintained.
In particular, men in their 20s who said Japan should not be allowed to exercise the right rose to 77 percent from 58 percent.
Fifty-six percent of those who said they agree with Abe’s plan to lift the self-imposed ban said the government needs to revise the Constitution to allow the exercise of the right, while 40 percent said revising the interpretation will be sufficient.
That means just 12 percent of respondents support altering the constitutional interpretation to enable the country to exercise the right.
Forty-nine percent of those who said Japan should be allowed to exercise the right of collective self-defense said Japan needs to win the understanding of its neighbors before lifting the ban, while 46 percent said Tokyo does not need to do so. A majority of supporters of the Abe administration or the LDP also said they believe the disadvantages for peace in East Asia will outweigh the benefits if the government allows the exercise of the right.
In similar Asahi Shimbun surveys in China and South Korea conducted earlier this year, 95 percent and 85 percent said Japan should not lift the ban, respectively. The surveys were conducted through interviews.
When asked to choose up to three policies from among 10 options which they want the Abe administration to prioritize, just 6 percent cited lifting the ban on the exercise of the right to collective self-defense.
Respondents who said the government should not revise Article 9 of the Constitution accounted for 64 percent, an increase from the 52 percent in last year’s survey. Twenty-nine percent said the article should be altered.
Of men in their 50s, 55 percent of whom supported the idea of changing Article 9 in the previous survey, 50 percent said they disagreed in the latest poll.
The Abe Cabinet on April 1 effectively lifted a three-decade self-imposed ban on the nation’s arms exports. In the survey, taken before the Cabinet action, 77 percent said they oppose expanding weapons sales to other countries, compared with 71 percent in the previous poll.
Those who said Japan should maintain its three non-nuclear principles of neither possessing or manufacturing nuclear weapons nor allowing other countries to bring them into Japanese territory accounted for 82 percent, while 77 percent responded similarly last year.
The LDP is seeking to revise the Constitution, which renounces the threat or the use of force as a means of settling international disputes, to recognize the SDF as a military, but 68 percent of respondents, compared with 62 percent in the 2013 survey, said they disagree with the effort.
Half the respondents said the current Constitution does not need to be revised, while 44 percent said the government should revise it.
Although it is not possible to make a simple comparison because questions in past surveys differed slightly from those in the latest poll, it marked the first time since 1997 that those who oppose the idea of revising the Constitution have accounted for the majority in an Asahi Shimbun poll.
Meanwhile, 55 percent of respondents said that China poses a military threat to Tokyo. But 60 percent--compared with 51 percent in the previous survey--said Abe's push to promote cooperation with Washington will have a negative effect on regional peace and stability in East Asia.
While 65 percent said Abe’s recent efforts to promote ties with the United States will heighten regional tensions, 29 percent said they do not think they will. More than half of the supporters of Abe’s administration or the LDP also said they fear the prime minister’s moves will lead to increased tensions.
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