Japanese support for US lowest since 2008, says think-tank

TOKYO • More Japanese now see the power and influence wielded by their nation's stalwart ally, the United States, as a major threat, according to a US-based think-tank.

Some 62 per cent are worried, up 10 points from last year, over concerns about US President Donald Trump's global leadership, the Pew Research Centre said yesterday.

Japan and the US are long-time allies, with their leaders in lockstep over ramping up economic pressure on North Korea to curtail its ballistic missile and nuclear programmes. Mr Trump is due to visit Tokyo in 2½ weeks.

Eight in 10 Japanese trust that the US will defend their nation in a stand-off against the North, while roughly six in 10 are in favour of using sanctions to rein in the North.

Even so, Mr Trump's policies on global issues such as immigration, climate and trade deeply rankle among the 1,009 Japanese who were surveyed by Pew in March and April this year.

Only 24 per cent think that the US leader will "do the right thing regarding world affairs" - down 54 points from last year when Mr Barack Obama was President.

"Support for the US in Japan is now at its lowest level since 2008," the Pew report said. Some 41 per cent of Japanese believe US-Japan ties will get worse, while 34 per cent expect them to stay the same.

An equal 62 per cent are concerned over the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terror threat, as they are of the US' influence.

Their top concern was cyber attacks by other nations (76 per cent).

The Pew report followed a Bank of Japan survey released on Monday showing that nearly half of Japanese financial institutions have met with a cyber attack since 2015.

Of the 411 institutions surveyed by the central bank, some 11 per cent had been affected to varying degrees via means such as viruses sent via e-mail or denial-of-service attacks, the Nikkei Asian Review reported.

"The scope of cyber attacks has spread rapidly over the past year or two to another level," cyber security expert Keisuke Kamata was quoted as saying.

The Japanese are also worried about climate change (67 per cent) and Chinese power and influence (64 per cent).

But concerns over China are waning - down 10 points from the last available data in 2013. The Japanese are also less concerned over Beijing than South Koreans (83 per cent), the Pew report said.

Walter Sim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2017, with the headline 'Japanese support for US lowest since 2008, says think-tank'. Print Edition | Subscribe