Shinzo Abe's approval rating recovers after North Korea test

By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |  Sept. 12, 2017 at 11:56 AM
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Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is enjoying a surge in approval ratings, following North Korea's missile provocations and sixth nuclear test, according to local newspapers.

Abe, who had been experiencing a decline in his popularity following reports of a number of school-related scandals and government grants to acquaintances, has recovered in opinion polls after Pyongyang fired a missile over Hokkaido and conducted a test of what it claimed to be a hydrogen bomb.

The Japanese leader's approval rating had dropped to 20 percent in July, and at least one former Japanese prime minister denounced him for the scandals, claiming Japan is "nearing ruin" because of Abe's control of the bureaucracy.

But according to a poll conducted by the Yomiuri Shimbun Sept. 8-10, Abe's approval rating has jumped to 50 percent, while 39 percent of those surveyed said they "do not support Abe."

The poll marks the first time in three months more people said they support Abe, rather than oppose his policies.

When respondents were asked about the reason for supporting Abe, many cited Abe's proactive approach to North Korea's nuclear test, including phone calls and consultations with U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

According to the Yomiuri survey, 50 percent of respondents said they think highly of Abe, while 37 percent said they do not think highly of the Japanese prime minister.

The Japanese newspaper reported Abe's approval rating also jumped 8 percentage points in September 2016, following North Korea's fifth nuclear test.

Opinion in Japan is divided on how to respond to North Korea.

About 51 percent of respondents to the Yomiuri poll said they support adding further pressure on Pyongyang, but 38 percent said priority should be placed on dialogue.

Progressive newspaper Asahi Shimbun showed a different trend, with the number of respondents who said they support Abe, 39 percent, identical to the number of people who said they oppose his policies.

Japanese television network NHK reported Abe's approval rating has jumped 5 percentage points since August, to 44 percent.

In August, Abe may have hinted he is willing to travel to North Korea to ease tensions.

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