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Polls: Public support for Japanese PM falls to 17 percent amid rising calls for resignation

TOKYO (AP) — Public support for Japan's embattled prime minister fell to 17 percent amid rising calls for his resignation over his broken campaign promise to move a U.S. military base off a southern island, polls showed Monday.

The dismal approval rating came a day after a small party opted to leave Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's three-party coalition in protest over his decision Friday to keep the U.S. base on Okinawa, weakening the alliance ahead of a July election.

A survey by the major daily Asahi found the approval rating for Hatoyama's Cabinet was down 4 percentage points from a previous poll in mid-May to a record low of 17 percent.

His disapproval rating jumped to 70 percent from 64 percent, the Asahi said.

Hatoyama, who came to power in September 2009, had pledged to move the U.S. base off Okinawa. But he announced Friday it would stay, a decision broadly in line with a 2006 deal forged by the previous Japanese government.

The move infuriated Okinawans who have long shouldered the heavy U.S. military presence. Okinawa alone houses more than half of the 47,000 U.S. troops in Japan, stationed under a bilateral defense alliance.

For years, Okinawans have complained about base-related noise, pollution and crime, and many want the military presence on the island reduced or the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma moved off the island entirely.

A separate survey by the Yomiuri, Japan's top-selling newspaper, showed Monday some 81 percent of respondents disapproved of Hatoyama's decision to keep the U.S. base on Okinawa. Nearly 60 percent called for his resignation over the issue.

The Asahi conducted the survey on May 29-30 through random telephone interviews. The paper said the survey had 1,106 responses. The Asahi did not give a margin of error, but a poll of the survey's size would generally have a 4 percentage point margin of error.

The Yomiuri also surveyed during the same period through random telephone interviews, with 1,111 responses. The Yomiuri did not give a margin of error, but a poll of its size would also have a 4 percentage point margin of error.