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Earlier this year the Asahi Shimbun polled Japanese citizens on how they viewed security matters. (I’ve since lost the actual article, but several Taiwanese articles, including this one at the China Post, went on to quote it.) The results were somewhat surprising. The numbers look like this:

Should the JSDF provide transportation and logistical assistance to the U.S. if war were to break out over the Taiwan Strait?

YES: 57%
NO: 30%

Is China a military threat to Japan? (YES)

2001: 8%
2005: 13%
2010: 32% (North Korea: 49%)

Should Japan strengthen military cooperation with the United States? (YES)

2010: 72%

Should Japan increase up cooperation with China? (YES)

2010: 55%

Which country is more important to Japan, the United States or China?

United States: 68%
China: 15%

Should the U.S. – Japan Security Treaty be maintained: (YES)

2010: 78%

With China boosting its military capability, should Japan boost its military capability in the southwestern (Nansei) islands to respond to the threat?

YES: 48%
NO: 36%

Asashi Shimbun poll conducted December 4-5, 2010, 3,000 respondents.

The big surprise is the widespread support — by a margin of nearly two to one — to assist Taiwan. Taiwan is apparently looked on rather favorably by Japanese in general, and this desire to help it may just grow out of an affinity for the island nation. The polling numbers may also reflect, in the face of growing Chinese belligerence and military forces, a Japanese desire to expand defense cooperation with nearby countries. Regardless, it’s a clear sign that the Japanese public is willing to participate in collective security measures that do not directly benefit Japan. That in and of itself is big news.

Something that I, as a Japanese-American found pleasantly reassuring was the high levels of support the U.S. – Japanese alliance had, with nearly eighty percent of Japanese saying it should be continued, and more than seventy percent saying it should be strengthened. I think that strategically, the alliance is the best choice for both countries, and I’m happy the majority of Japanese agree.

Obviously the clear loser in this (and other polls) is China. This poll says that not only do the Japanese people consider it less important than the United States by a factor of more than four to one, they’re also willing to send the Self Defense Forces to support China’s enemies. At the same time however, the high percentage of those polled who say they want to strengthen cooperation with China says attitudes are still a ways from hardening.

The REALLY interesting poll is what Japanese would say about defending South Korea.

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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 530 post(s) on Japan Security Watch