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Poll: Koizumi should end visits to shrine
Updated: 2005-05-31 10:12

TOKYO - Nearly half of Japanese voters believe Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is mishandling relations with China and want him to end visits to a war shrine that infuriate Beijing and other Asian countries, a survey says.

Forty-eight percent of respondents to a poll by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said they disapproved of Koizumi's stance toward China against 35 percent who backed him, with the rest not giving a clear opinion.

Relations with China have steadily deteriorated in recent months.

Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi last week abruptly cancelled a meeting with Koizumi to protest the Japanese leader's defense of his annual pilgrimage to the Yasukuni shrine.

The Shinto sanctuary in central Tokyo honors 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including 14 top war criminals from World War II.

Forty-nine percent of voters said Koizumi should stop visiting the shrine as opposed to 39 percent who supported his visits, according to the Asahi poll which received responses from 1,876 voters over the weekend.

The survey also found the Japanese were critical of China. It said 51 percent considered the Chinese position on Yasukuni "incomprehensible" while 37 percent identified with Beijing's stand.

However, criticism of Koizumi's China policy did not mean overall opposition of his performance. The Asahi poll put his government's approval rating at 45 percent, up from 40 percent in March.

A poll by the Yomiuri Shimbun published May 17 put support for the cabinet above 50 percent for the first time in six months, with voters saying Koizumi, the longest serving Japanese premier in two decades, offered stability.

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