August 1, 2019 | By Craig Kafura

In Korea-Japan Dispute, Japanese Public Backs Export Controls

Relations between Japan and South Korea are in freefall, with the two key US allies in Asia engaged in a steadily escalating economic conflict.

The current crisis was sparked by a November 2018 decision by South Korea’s Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of South Koreans conscripted for labor by imperial Japan during the second world war.

Japan argues that these claims were settled in the 1965 treaty reestablishing relations between the two nations, and hinted it would retaliate if the South Korean government did not intervene. When no intervention was forthcoming, Japan decided to impose export controls on key components in South Korea’s semiconductor manufacturing industry.

Japan officially argues that these decisions are matters of national security. Japanese Foreign Minister Kono Taro, in a post on his official website (and translated by JapanForward), denies that these changes in Japanese export controls are retaliation. But the majority of FM Kono’s post deals not with the recent change in export controls, but instead, reviews the history of the 1965 treaty reestablishing relations between South Korea and Japan and past settlements of wartime labor claims. Observers are understandably skeptical that the two issues are unrelated.

As my colleague Karl Friedhoff noted in the Nikkei Asian Review, “It's clear that both sides made miscalculations in letting this get to this point, but are now so invested that backing away is going to be politically damaging.” And Japanese Prime Minister Abe, fresh off electoral victory in upper house elections (albeit one short of what he’d hoped for) is expected to up the ante on August 2 by removing South Korea from its export whitelist, which will force Japanese companies to seek governmental approval before exporting a range of materials to South Korea.

If anyone was looking to the Japanese public to put a brake on this downward spiral of relations, you’ll be disappointed. Instead, they’re behind the government. A Nikkei survey conducted July 26-28 found that 58 percent of the Japanese public supports the Japanese government’s decision to impose export controls for semiconductor materials on their way to South Korea. That’s similar to results from a July 22-23 Yomiuri Shimbun poll, which found that 71 percent supported the decision.

If this dispute continues, it’s not hard to imagine broader effects on public opinion. This could be the beginning of a long downward spiral in bilateral views.

About

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion. 

The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.

Archive


| By Bettina Hammer

Americans Aren't Fans of Arms Sales

The United States has long been the tops arms supplier in the world. Yet public opinion data shows that Americans aren’t fans of U.S. arms sales.


| By Bettina Hammer

Little Admiration for the United States among MENA Publics

Most Americans believe that respect and admiration for the United States are instrumental in achieving US foreign policy goals. But a new poll finds publics in the Middle East and North Africa continue to view the United States unfavorably. 


| By Bettina Hammer

Peace to Prosperity Misses the Mark with Palestinians

At the June 25-26 Bahrain Peace to Prosperity Workshop, Jared Kushner presented the first component of a U.S. peace plan for the Middle East. But how does this plan sit with the Palestinian public?



| By Dina Smeltz, Brendan Helm

Scholars vs the Public: Collapse of the INF Treaty

In early February 2019, the United States withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty following President Trump’s October 2018 (and the Obama administration’s July 2014) accusations that Russia was failing to comply with the treaty. Russia withdrew from the treaty the next day.

Findings from a February 2019 Chicago Council on Global Affairs general public survey and a December 2018 Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) survey of International Relations (IR) scholars around the world illustrate how these different populations perceive the collapse of the INF Treaty.



| By Craig Kafura

Expert Panel Survey: US Focus on the Denuclearization of North Korea

Despite expectations for the meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, their recent summit in Hanoi ended with no agreement toward denuclearization. With that in mind, we asked our panel of foreign policy experts whether the United States should continue to focus primarily on denuclearization, or shift to arms control and non-proliferation.



| By Dina Smeltz

Opinion Landscape Not Ideal for New Mideast Peace Plan

At a Middle East conference this month in Warsaw, Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and Mideast adviser, said that the administration will unveil its much-vaunted Middle East peace plan after the April 9 Israeli elections.


| By Karl Friedhoff

America the Dangerous

The Trump administration has taken a hard line on China, but has failed to convince the American public or many allies to follow suit. Instead, publics around the world now see the United States as a major threat.