The Philippines is the only country in the Asia-Pacific region where people have a positive view of North Korea, a study has found.
According to the Spring 2017 Global Attitudes Survey by the Pew Research Center, 53 per cent of Filipinos held a positive view of the country, against 33 per cent who viewed it negatively.
This is in stark contrast to the widespread distrust of the secretive state, with at least 45 per cent of the people in Indonesia, Vietnam, South Korea, the US, Australia and Japan seeing the country in a negative light.
Among the countries surveyed, the Japanese had the most negative opinion on the DPRK, with 94 per cent holding an unfavourable view, including 78 per cent who say that they had a very unfavourable attitude.
“In Australia, the US and South Korea, roughly three-quarters or more say they have unfavourable views,” the research group said.
The findings were based on at least 1,000 face-to-face interviews in five Philippine languages between February 26 and May 8, this year.
North Korea caused alarm recently after it launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that some experts believe could reach Alaska and Hawaii.
The Philippines is also within range of this missile, which could be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
According to the research, Filipinos are among the most concerned about North Korea’s nuclear program, with 60 per cent saying they were “very concerned” while another 27 per cent indicating that they were “somewhat concerned.”
This is the third highest in the region, behind only Japan and the US.
The research notes said: “In the Asia-Pacific region, anxiety is highest among Pyongyang’s closest neighbours — Japan, the Philippines and South Korea, where around 60 per cent or more say they are very concerned.”
However, despite concerns over the Hermit Kingdom’s nuclear development, Asia-Pacific countries were divided on how to respond to the issue.
A majority of Filipinos and Vietnamese said that closer relationships with North Korea were the answer. In contrast, US, Japanese and South Korean respondents favoured economic sanctions.
“Half or more Americans, Japanese, South Koreans and Australians believe increasing sanctions will be more effective than deepening ties,” the report said. “A plurality of Vietnamese and Filipinos say the nuclear problem should be handled by deepening ties with North Korea, and in Indonesia, large shares volunteered that neither was a good strategy (18%) or said they did not know (23%).”
Washington has refused to rule out a military option to deal with Pyongyang. However, with such a large proportion of South Korea’s population living close to the border, this would be a matter of last resort. It is estimated that tens of thousands of South Koreans would die within the first few hours of a North Korean artillery barrage.
Despite pursuing North Korea’s denuclearisation, South Korea is not working toward an “artificial unification” with the North under the administration of newly elected president Moon Jae In, a senior official from South Korea’s foreign ministry said.
Similarly, South Korea “does not wish for North Korea’s collapse,” the official told journalists at a briefing organised by the Foreign Service Institute in Manila.
The official said that South Korea was taking an approach of “strategic patience” in pursuing the dismantlement of the North’s nuclear programme.
He also said it was the priority of South Korea and its ally, the US, to convince China to put pressure on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear arsenal. “China is the sole power that can put pressure, to bring North Korea to the negotiating table,” he added.
The official concluded that the Philippines, along with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, was in a strong position to send a unified message to North Korea and persuade China to commit on the region’s security.