Around 66 percent of Japanese voters are relieved that South Korea has decided to maintain a military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, a Kyodo News survey showed Sunday.

South Korea said Friday it was suspending its decision to terminate the bilateral accord. The decision in August followed Tokyo's tightening of export controls on some materials for the chipmaking industry and the removal of South Korea from Japan's list of trusted trade partners.

Reached in 2016, the accord is mainly aimed at countering the North Korean nuclear and missile threat, and facilitating three-way defense cooperation with the United States. Seoul had demanded that Tokyo reverse its tightening of export controls.

Japan-South Korea ties, which have long been haunted by wartime history, sank to their lowest level in years after South Korea's top court ordered a Japanese steelmaker in October last year to pay compensation for forced labor during Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, an issue that Japan argues was settled under a 1965 bilateral accord. A similar ruling was given to a different Japanese company the following month.

The diplomatic row deepened in December when a South Korean destroyer allegedly locked its fire-control radar onto a Japanese patrol plane in Japan's exclusive economic zone. Seoul later alleged that a Japanese patrol plane had deliberately flown at low altitude.

The survey conducted on Saturday and Sunday also showed the approval rating for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has declined to 48.7 percent from 54.1 percent in the previous survey in late October, after opposition parties accused Abe of using publicly funded cherry blossom viewing parties for election campaigning.

It has come to light that hundreds of Abe supporters were invited to the events, hosted by prime ministers since 1952 to honor people such as athletes and celebrities for their accomplishments.

The prime minister was allowed to recommend as many as 1,000 guests with his wife Akie also making recommendations.

In the latest survey, 59.9 percent of the respondents said the prime minister should not have invited many supporters from his constituency in western Japan to the parties.

While Abe has denied involvement in finalizing the guest lists and has cancelled next year's event as the government reviews the scale and invitation criteria of the parties, 64.7 percent of respondents said they wanted them scrapped.

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