Abe scandal could affect Japanese foreign policy: Expert

아베 스캔들 지지율 급락이 미칠 영향은?

Last year, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tried to put behind him questions over the sale of state-owned land at a huge discount to a school operator with ties to his wife.
Now, with the scandal back in the spotlight and elections coming up, some experts say the Japanese leader could pursue a more nationalistic foreign policy -- something that might save his career but would worry Japan's neighbors.
Won Jung-hwan reports.
Last year, Prime Minister Abe offered to resign if evidence emerged linking him to the sale of state-owned land at a huge discount to school operator Moritomo Gakuen.
No such evidence has ever surfaced,… but a government report released on Monday has raised suspicions of a cover up.
The Finance Ministry admitted that some crucial facts may have been omitted from the evidence handed over to parliament.
And with elections coming up in September, Abe's ratings have taken a hit.

That domestic pressure on the Prime Minister, some experts say, could have consequences for Japan's neighbors.
They say Abe could look to a more assertive foreign policy to boost his poll numbers.

"Abe's most important political task is changing the Constitution, so I think he will try to increase his domestic support using the North Korea issue like he did last year. It is highly likely that with summit talks coming up between North Korea and the U.S., he will try to put his nation's interests ahead of other priorities."

And that might not be good news for ties between Seoul and Tokyo.

"It is hard to see Abe trying to improve relations with South Korea. If he continues to lose public support, I think he might exploit anti-Korean sentiment, or in the extreme case, he might visit the Yasukuni Shrine to recover his support among the right wing."

Polls have shown Mr. Abe's popularity declining. His cabinet's approval rating has dropped below 50 percent for the first time in five months. Whether that affect his foreign policy is something the region will be watching.
Won Jung-hwan, Arirang News.

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