Japan PM's Approval Ratings Dive Over Land Sale Scandal

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have held a telephone conversation to discuss the situation in the North Korean Peninsula and agreed on tight cooperation over the issue of denuclearization of North Korea, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said on Monday, TASS reports.

The public support for the Japanese government decreased by 9.2 percent within two weeks as result of a scandal over the purchase of land from the state for a private school far below market price, which allegedly involves country's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a fresh poll revealed on Sunday.

Food companies were also sold, with condiment maker Kikkoman Corp dropping 1.7 percent and NH Foods sliding 1.9 percent.

Finance Minister and former PM Taro Aso is at the heart of the scandal and is skipping the G20 finance leaders meeting this week.

The prime minister repeated an apology, saying he "keenly felt" his responsibility over the scandal that has "shaken people's confidence in government administration".

Since Abe commenced his second stint as prime minister in 2012, the lowest support rating recorded was 35.8 percent in July previous year, when the government was reeling from a series of scandals, including the cronyism accusations that resurfaced recently.

Three other surveys - published separately by the Mainichi newspaper, Kyodo News and the NNN news network - found similar falls in public support for Abe.

On Feb. 17 a year ago, Abe told a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting that he would resign as prime minister and as a lawmaker if he or his wife, Akie, were proved to have been involved in the deal to sell the land to the school operator at a massive discount. Outside the prime minister's office, thousands of protesters have gathered nearly every day, demanding that Abe step down.

"This is a problem that is worthy of the resignation of the whole of the cabinet", opposition upper house member Shoji Namba demanded as he questioned Abe over the scandal.

The papers were scrubbed of all mention of Mr Abe and his wife, as well as lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba, 61, won the support of most respondents, followed by LDP rising star Shinjiro Koizumi, 36.

"Various polls have shown his cabinet approval rating plunging and the stable base of the Abe administration is wobbling", he said in a commentary.

Fukuyama also stated that it was necessary to summon Hidenori Sakota, Sagawa's predecessor at the Finance Ministry's Financial Bureau, who was at the post at the time the bureau was holding land-sale negotiations with Moritomo Gakuen.