The percentage of Japanese who do not feel friendly toward China marked a record high of 83.2%, a government survey showed Saturday, amid China’s assertive moves in the East and South China seas.
Despite a recent thaw in bilateral relations between Japan and China, the result marked a slight deterioration in sentiment. In the previous survey in 2014, the percentage stood at 83.1%, the highest since the government began taking a survey of the kind in 1978.
The Cabinet Office said 14.8% said they feel friendly toward China, unchanged from 2014.
Public sentiment toward South Korea improved, however, with 33% of those polled saying they feel friendly, up 1.5 percentage points.
A total of 64.7% said they do not feel friendly toward the Asian neighbor, down 1.7 points.
The poll came after Japan and South Korea agreed in December to resolve the long-standing issue of “comfort women,” or women forced to work in Japan’s wartime brothels, by creating a new fund.
Improving soured ties with China and South Korea has been one of the major challenges for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Tokyo and Beijing remain at odds over the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, an islet group controlled by Japan but claimed by China.
“The public has yet to understand the Japanese government’s efforts to improve ties,” said Yasushi Kudo, president of the Genron NPO, a private think tank.
China’s massive reclamation work in the South China Sea has also raised concern among countries in the region and beyond.
When asked about the current status of Japan-China relations, 9.5% said they are either “good” or “somewhat good.” That compares with 85.7% who responded bilateral relations are not good.
A total 84.4% of those polled said they feel friendly toward the United States, Japan’s key security ally, marking a 1.8 point improvement from the previous survey.
The percentage of Japanese people viewing the United States favorably has stayed above 80% since the U.S. military conducted “Operation Tomodachi” relief efforts in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Toward Russia, 17.4% said they feel friendly, down 2.7 points, while 79.3%, up 2.9 points, responded they do not.
The Jan 7 to 17 survey was conducted by in-person interview, covering 3,000 adults, with 60% responding.