EDITORIAL | Strengthen regulations on land transactions around security installations

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A law to better protect sensitive areas near Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) facilities and outer islands close to Japan’s borders came into effect recently.

The Law Concerning Restriction of Use and Investigation of Use of Land Surrounding Important Facilities and Islands Close to the Japanese Border (Law No. 84 of 2021) was enacted by the Diet in June 2021.

Fully effective, it is up to the government to vigorously enforce this law intended to protect the Japanese nation and people.

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Areas subject to law enforcement include Designated Observed Areas (DOA) and Specially Designated Observed Areas (SDOA). The first category refers to locations approximately one kilometer away from SDF and US military bases, nuclear power plants, and other facilities critical to national security.

SDOAs include particularly important, vulnerable and irreplaceable infrastructure. Examples are the JSDF headquarters, major US military bases, and islands near the country’s borders.

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The the law authorizes government authorities to investigate ownership, including the nationality of owners and shareholders, and land use in these designated areas.

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A Korean-owned hotel (top right) that operates next to the Maritime Self-Defense Force base at Takeshiki (left) in Tsushima, Nagasaki prefecture, December 3, 2008 (© Sankei)

Dangers around critical infrastructure

The security environment surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly dangerous. As foreign capital from China and elsewhere continues to acquire land and buildings in Japan, heightened scrutiny is clearly warranted.

Under the new law, if landowners in designated areas engage in conduct that impairs the functions of facilities located in those areas, then the relevant administrative authorities can request or order the party in question to desist from such actions. .

If this party does not respond correctly to the order, it is liable to criminal penalties. Examples of such disruptive behavior cited by the government include placing structures or equipment that could interfere with JSDF aircraft landing or radar operations, using laser lighting to obstruct facility functions sensitive and the use of radio waves for jamming purposes.

It is planned to designate the first DOAs and SDOAs by the end of 2022, then add approximately 600 or more zones each year for several years thereafter. Speed ​​is essential to ensure adequate security for critical facilities.

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Purchase of China-related land near the JSDF radar site in Hokkaido. (©Sankei)

Important infrastructure left vulnerable

However, the new law remains inadequate and greater legal protection for important facilities is needed. The parties to a real estate transaction involving a certain area of ​​land within an SDOA are required to inform the government in advance before concluding the transaction. However, the law does not regulate the sale of land itself. The new regulations only apply to “use”.

On the new law, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno noted the current international situation, saying, “The risks of activities that interfere with the functions of defense-related facilities and outlying islands near our national borders increase”.

Recognition of this growing risk should result in more effective regulation of land deals of concern. As things stand, the problem is that nothing can be done until the disruptive behavior has already taken place.

In the United States, if foreign capital seeks to acquire real estate near a military installation, the transaction must undergo a security review and the president has the power to stop the transaction.

Some of the opposition parties opposed the enactment of the new law, fearing it would lead to surveillance of residents, including their political activities, and restrictions on private property rights. But the fact is that the law in no way restricts real estate transactions or the use of property.

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An advisory board will consider dissenting opinions when areas are designated or requests for abstention are issued. We must not allow regulations to be emasculated and the security of the nation to be jeopardized.

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(Read the editorial in Japanese on this link.)

Author: editorial board, The Sankei Shimbun

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