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48% oppose SDF's new mission under security legislation: Mainichi poll

Nearly half of the public who responded to a Mainichi Shimbun survey said they were against the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) rescuing foreign troops and civilians under attack in distant locations as part of a mission sanctioned under Japan's new security legislation, it has been learned.

The nationwide survey, which was conducted on Sept. 3 and 4, found that 48 percent of respondents objected to having an SDF unit engaged in United Nations peacekeeping operations come to the aid of foreign troops and civilians in remote areas under the new security-related laws that came into force in March this year, while 39 percent approved the move.

Drills for the potential new mission by the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) unit to be dispatched to South Sudan as early as November are set to start later this month. Among supporters of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 58 percent approved the move while 29 percent opposed. Among non-supporters of the Cabinet, 77 percent were against the move, well over the 14 percent who were in favor. The poll results appear to have been divided due to differing opinions on the expansion of the SDF's role and the potential risks entailing it.

The survey also asked whether pollees expect progress in the dispute over the Russian-held four islands off Hokkaido, known in Japan as the Northern Territories, following the Sept. 2 talks between Prime Minister Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin. While 62 percent of respondents said they expect progress in the territory talks, 31 percent said they have no such expectations. Those who expressed a sense of hope appear to be banking on the additional Abe-Putin meetings scheduled for November and December.

With regard to the Aug. 24 agreement between Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers that Tokyo will pay about 10 million yen each to former wartime "comfort women" through a foundation set up by South Korea for the settlement of the issue, 58 percent of pollees said they didn't approve of the bilateral accord, while 30 percent said they did. Among Cabinet supporters and non-supporters, 56 percent and 60 percent said they disapproved of the agreement, respectively.

Regarding the move to allow Prime Minister Abe to serve another term as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) beyond his current tenure, which will expire in September 2018, 53 percent of respondents said there is no need to extend the term, while 35 percent said it is better to extend it. LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai and other party officials have endorsed the proposal to extend Abe's term. The survey results over the issue remained almost the same from the previous poll conducted in August. Among LDP supporters, 66 percent said Abe's term should be extended.

The Cabinet approval rate among respondents dropped to 46 percent, down 1 percentage point from the previous survey, while the disapproval rate rose by 1 percentage point to 35 percent.

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