Photo/IllutrationThe Asahi Shimbun

More than half of voters oppose the Self-Defense Forces’ rescue duty in South Sudan, an Asahi Shimbun poll showed, although a majority of respondents initially lacked an understanding of the new security activity.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has approved new security tasks for the Self-Defense Forces, including “kaketsuke-keigo,” which literally means “rushing (to distant places) to protect and rescue (people),” based on national security legislation enacted last year.

SDF members on United Nations peacekeeping operations are now authorized to use their weapons when they rush to assist U.N workers or civilians under attack from armed assailants.

Ground SDF members on Nov. 21 were dispatched to strife-torn South Sudan in central Africa for U.N. peacekeeping operations.

According to the telephone survey conducted on Nov. 19 and 20, a combined 61 percent of respondents knew little or nothing about kaketsuke-keigo, compared with 38 percent who had either some knowledge or a strong understanding of it.

After receiving an explanation about the duty, 49 percent of respondents opposed the policy, while 37 percent defended it.

The gap widened over the SDF mission in South Sudan. Some 56 percent objected to Abe's decision to include the role in this dispatch, double the 28 percent who were in favor of it.

Among supporters of the Abe Cabinet, 43 percent approved the mission in South Sudan, compared with 44 percent against it.

The Abe Cabinet’s approval rating was 51 percent, 3 percentage points higher than in the previous survey conducted in October. The disapproval rate was 25 percent, down from 32 percent.

An overwhelming 72 percent of respondents held a positive view of Abe’s meeting with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in New York on Nov. 17. Only 16 percent were negative about the 90-minute talk at Trump Tower in Manhattan.

When asked what they thought about the future of the Japan-U.S. relationship under Trump’s presidency, 9 percent said it will change for the better, 22 percent expect it to deteriorate, and 49 percent believe that little will change, according to the survey.

Overall, 44 percent of respondents said Trump’s election victory was “not a good thing,” more than double the 20 percent who welcomed Trump’s triumph.

The survey covered eligible voters 18 or older across Japan, excluding parts of Fukushima Prefecture. Valid responses were received from 971 of the 1,945 landline numbers contacted, or 50 percent.

Additionally, 2,107 cellphone numbers were contacted, and 1,002 individuals, or 48 percent, gave valid responses.