Monday, September 25, 2006

Most S.E. Asians warm on Japan ties

The Yomiuri Shimbun

A survey conducted in seven Asian countries found that more than 90 percent of people in Southeast Asian countries felt their countries had a good relationship with Japan and between 70 percent and 90 percent said Japan was a trustworthy nation.

In particular, 96 percent of respondents in Indonesia and Thailand said their countries had "very good" or "rather good" relations with Japan, followed by Vietnam with 92 percent and Malaysia with 91 percent.

People in Southeast Asian countries also held a favorable view of China, whose economy is growing rapidly, indicating they feel their ties with China are warming, according to the survey.

The interview survey was conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun, Hankook Ilbo, a South Korean daily, and Gallup Group between late June and mid-July in Japan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. This was the third such survey after ones conducted in 1995 and 1996.

More than 90 percent of respondents in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam in the 1995 survey said their countries enjoyed good relationships with Japan.

Eighty-nine percent of Indian pollees, who were asked the question for the first time, said their country and Japan got along "very well" or "rather well."

Ninety-two percent of Thai pollees, the largest number, said they could trust Japan "quite a lot" or "more or less." Vietnam had the lowest rate of such people among the Southeast Asian countries at 75 percent, the survey said.

Ninety-one percent of Indonesians said Japan had a positive impact on the world, while more than 80 percent of pollees in Southeast Asian countries and India said so.

The Southeast Asian countries and India held high expectations Japan would play a key role in the international community.

Regarding the dispatch of Self-Defense Forces personnel to foreign countries to provide humanitarian assistance, 83 percent of pollees from Indonesia, to which SDF members were dispatched to provide relief to victims of the 2004 tsunami, supported such SDF missions.

With the exception of South Korea, more respondents backed overseas SDF dispatches than opposed them.
(Sep. 4, 2006)

Despite some criticism that Japan has paid little regard to Asia during the tenure of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, people in Southeast Asian nations and India showed exceptionally favorable views regarding Japan in a recent survey by The Yomiuri Shimbun.

However, the survey found that people in the region had mixed feelings about Koizumi's visit to Tokyo's war-related Yasukuni Shrine.

The survey interviewed people in India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

People who had a "good impression" about Japan amounted to 96 percent in India and 94 percent in Indonesia. The figure also was above or close to 90 percent in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. In each of these countries, more than 90 percent said their countries' current relationship with Japan was "good."

In South Korea, however, 82 percent of people said they had a "bad impression" of Japan, and 87 percent said their country's relationship with Japan was "bad," reflecting deterioration of the bilateral relationship as a result of the visits by Koizumi to Yasukuni Shrine.

Nevertheless, figures did not change much since the last time the same questions were asked in 1995, and it appears that history-related issues, including the Yasukuni issue, have had a negligible effect in the Asian nations, with South Korea being an exception.

The reason behind the good will in Asian nations is presumably due to good economic relationships with Japan.

The survey asked pollees to pick three countries or regions they think hold highest stakes for their country's economy. Japan ranked top in four Southeast Asian countries. More than 80 percent of Indonesians picked Japan, while in India it came in second behind the United States.

Views were divided on the Yasukuni issue in Southeast Asia, just as they were in Japan.

In Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, those who said it was "acceptable" for Japan's prime minister to visit the shrine exceeded those who said it was "unacceptable." In Indonesia, 41 percent said it was "unacceptable," surpassing 37 percent who said "acceptable."

In all four Southeast Asian countries, about 20 percent refused to respond to the question. In Japan, 60 percent said it was "acceptable."

On the fact that class-A war criminals are enshrined at Yasukuni Shrine along with war dead, more than 50 percent of Thais and Malaysians said it was "acceptable."

A majority of Indonesians, at 57 percent however, said it was "unacceptable." In Vietnam as well, disapproval outweighed acceptance. The figure in Japan was 46 percent for "acceptable," and 44 percent for "unacceptable."

The survey also asked pollees if Japan's actions in their countries during World War II were still an obstacle to relations. "No" surpassed "yes" in all nations except South Korea, where 75 percent said "yes." Those who said "no" was 73 percent in Vietnam, 66 percent in Malaysia, 62 percent in Indonesia and 49 percent in Thailand.

Those who support Japan's dispatch of Self-Defense Forces troops abroad for humanitarian and reconstruction aid outnumbered those who do not in all four Southeast Asian nations and India. But in South Korea, 56 percent were against such action, while 42 percent were supportive. Fifty percent of Japanese supported it.


China's influence growing

The emergence of China in Asian minds was made apparent in the survey.

More than 80 percent of people in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia had a "good impression" about China. In Indonesia, in particular, the figure shot up from 31 percent, 11 years ago, to 81 percent.

Such figures suggest many people in those countries believe China's economic growth will have positive effects on their economies.

The survey asked pollees to pick up to three countries that would be major economic powers in the future. In 1996, most people in all countries, except for Japan, picked Japan, but this time, people were divided between Japan and China.

China outshone Japan in Malaysia and Vietnam, as well as in Japan and South Korea.

China was also the No. 1 choice for "the country which will become most influential in the Asian region from here on," in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Meanwhile, many people expressed concerns on the prospect of Japan-China relations, as China enhanced its presence in Asia.

People who agreed with the notion that the deteriorating Japan-China relationship due to the Yasukuni issue would negatively impact on the entire Asian region outnumbered those who disagreed in all surveyed countries except for Thailand. Sixty percent of Malaysians and 53 percent of Indonesians agreed with the notion.
(Sep. 5, 2006)

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