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PM Abe’s ratings regain 50 percent amid North Korea security jitters

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By Reuters

Tokyo – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s support ratings have recovered to the 50 percent level, a poll released on Tuesday showed, helped by public jitters over North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests and by disarray in the main opposition party.

A September 8-10 survey by the Yomiuri newspaper put support for Abe’s administration at 50 percent, up eight points from the previous month.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reviews the honor guard before a meeting with Japan Self-Defense Force’s senior members at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo, Japan, September 11, 2017. (Reuters | Manila Bulletin)

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reviews the honor guard before a meeting with Japan Self-Defense Force’s senior members at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo, Japan, September 11, 2017. (Reuters | Manila Bulletin)

Abe’s support had sunk below 30 percent in some polls in July, battered by suspected cronyism scandals and perceptions among voters that he had become arrogant after more than four years in office.

His ratings improved slightly cabinet reshuffle in early August.

Since then, news has been dominated by rising regional tensions over North Korea’s ballistic missile tests, including one that flew over northern Japan. Abe has spoken to US President Donald Trump by phone numerous times, seeking to demonstrate the US-Japan alliance is firm.

Pyongyang last week carried out its sixth and biggest nuclear test and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera warned more provocations could be in store after the UN Security Council stepped up sanctions, imposing a ban on the North’s textile exports and capping crude oil imports.

“Japan also wants to take leadership to change North Korea’s policies while coordinating closely with other countries,” Abe told reporters on Tuesday.

With parliament in recess, Abe was “able to use the ‘crisis’ in North Korea to monopolize the spotlight by getting the media to portray him as a strong leader,” said Koichi Nakano, a political science professor at Sophia University.

Japan’s opposition Democratic Party, meanwhile, failed to improve its ratings after the election last month of a new leader, former foreign minister Seiji Maehara.

The Democrats also face likely defections to an embryonic party that allies of popular Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, an ex-ruling party lawmaker, are trying to form.

Sixty percent of voters did not hold hopes for Maehara’s leadership compared to 33 percent who did. Support for his party languished at 5 percent versus 40 percent for Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, the Yomiuri said.

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