Japan PM Kishida's support hits highest ever as election nears -Nikkei

Fumio Kishida, Japan's prime minister, speaks at a news conference following the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) leaders meeting at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan May 24, 2022. Kiyoshi Ota/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

TOKYO, May 30 (Reuters) - Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida scored his highest approval ratings since taking office eight months ago in a weekend survey, the Nikkei daily reported, with critical upper house elections just weeks away.

Should Kishida, fresh from talks with U.S. President Joe Biden last week, and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) win a decisive victory in July's election, he won't face another scheduled ballot for three years. That would give him full scope to focus on a policy programme that includes revising Japan's pacifist constitution at some point in the future.

Support for Kishida and his cabinet climbed to 66%, a rise of 5 points from the previous April survey and the highest since he took office last October, according to a weekend survey by the Nikkei and TV Tokyo.

A total of 61% of respondents said they "approved" of his talks with Biden. During the meeting the pair agreed to cooperate on pressing security issues, such as China's increasing assertiveness, while and Kishida pledged to seek a "substantial" increase in Japan's defence budget.

Kishida has recently concluded a whirlwind schedule of diplomatic visits and talks in Tokyo, including hosting the leader of the "Quad" security pact countries - Australia, India, Japan and the United States.

Though analysts say the optics of meeting with Biden certainly won't hurt Kishida, diplomacy is unlikely to weigh as heavily with voters as domestic issues, such as the coronavirus and the economy.

Asked about the government's handling of price rises in the wake of the war in Ukraine and surging fuel prices, 61% said they did not approve against only 28% who did.

Kishida's support also rose in a survey last week by Fuji News network, hitting hit 68.9%, up 3 points from the previous month. But asked to explain why they supported him, the greatest number of respondents - 38.2% - said "because there's no other suitable person".

Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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