Japan Wants to Stop North Korea's Kim Jong Un, But Dialogue Won't Help, New Poll Shows

Updated | Japan has for months urged its citizens to prepare for a possible nuclear war from North Korea, holding safety drills in schools and warning fisherman about surviving a missile attack. The tension has now reached an apex, with a majority of Japanese saying they want their government to take action against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, not just engage him through diplomacy.

Roughly 54 percent of people surveyed in an opinion poll published Friday said they want Japan and the United States to take steps toward reining in North Korea, compared to 39.4 percent who said dialogue was the best path forward, Japan Times reported Friday. At the same time, 52.8 percent of respondents said they were worried and 15.4 percent said they were very worried about what North Korea would do next. The survey was conducted for four days through Monday. It questioned 2,000 adults across Japan.

The poll came after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Donald Trump vowed last week in Tokyo to apply pressure against North Korea during the president's 12-day tour of several Asian nations. North Korea and Japan have long experienced a contentious relationship in part because of Japan's colonization of the Korean peninsula before World War II. North Korea has repeatedly tested ballistic missiles toward Japan in recent months, reminding Tokyo, which sits just 800 miles from Pyongyang, of its vulnerability.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers his policy speech at the lower house of parliament in Tokyo, Japan, November 17, 2017. Reuters

Abe said Friday he would work to bolster Japan's missile defense capability by buying U.S.-made missile defense systems because of Pyongyang's "escalating provocation." "We will strengthen Japanese defense power, including missile defense capabilities, in order to protect the people's lives and peace," Abe said.

North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September, prompting new sanctions from world leaders at the United Nations. But North Korea hasn't shied away from confrontation. In a commentary from the North Korean Central News Agency in October, Kim's regime accused Abe of pressuring North Korea to grow his approval ratings at home.

"Japan's such rackets inciting the tension of the Korean peninsula is a suicidal deed that will bring nuclear clouds to the Japanese archipelago," the statement read. "No one knows when the touch-and-go situation will lead to a nuclear war, but if so, the Japanese archipelago will be engulfed in flames in a moment. This is too self-evident."

Correction: The headline on this story has been corrected to more accurately reflect the findings of a poll on North Korea-Japan relations.