Abe’s foreign policy faces doubt in Japan ahead of Asia Summits

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pictured here at a cabinet meeting.(AFP pic)

As Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prepares to attend major Asian summits this week, a new poll has exposed rising skepticism at home about his foreign policy.

A Pew Research Center survey found half of Japanese voters had little or no confidence in Abe doing the right thing in world affairs, the highest level in more than a decade. That’s compared with 48 who said they had some confidence in the prime minister’s approach. Pew polled 1,016 people in Japan in May and June.

The poll was released as the Japanese prime minister hosts a visit by US Vice President Mike Pence and prepares to attend high-level meetings in Singapore and Papua New Guinea. Abe has faced repeated threats of trade sanctions from Donald Trump, despite his personal efforts to develop a rapport with the U.S. president and the decades-old alliance between their two countries.

His wooing of Russian President Vladimir Putin has yet to yield progress on a territorial dispute. But there have been victories, too: Japan has also seen a marked improvement in ties with China since Abe took office in 2012.

Confidence in Abe was higher in several countries surveyed, including the US, Australia and the Philippines. It was extremely low in South Korea, as resentment there flares over Japan’s past colonisation of the Korean Peninsula.

The Japanese see German Chancellor Angela Merkel as the world’s most trustworthy leader, with 65% of respondents expressing confidence in her. It was grimmer news for Trump: Just 30% of Japanese said they had faith in his foreign policy, with 71% saying the US took little or no account of Japan’s interests in making decisions.