Effective monitoring of land near key facilities must not be delayed

The bill must be passed in the current Diet session so that a close watch can be kept before it is too late.

The government has submitted to the Diet a “bill for the survey and regulation of important land and other property” to strengthen the monitoring and regulation of land that is important for national security.

The main pillar of the bill is designating areas around Self-Defense Forces bases, nuclear power plants and other key facilities, as well as remote border islands, as zones to be closely watched, and to allow the government to investigate the owners of land and buildings, for such reasons as determining their nationalities and the purpose of their use.

The areas around very important facilities will be designated as a special watch zones, and the government will require prior notification when land and buildings are bought or sold in the areas.

Government investigations have confirmed many cases of China-related capital having acquired lands around SDF facilities and other key facilities. Concerns have been raised in many areas over the intentions behind the acquisitions. Delays in measures against such moves are not acceptable.

The bill will make it possible to use the Basic Resident Registration and family registers to identify landowners, including their nationalities, and to demand that the owners submit necessary documents.

What the government is concerned about is that land around important facilities could be used in a way that harms national security.

The impact would be huge if a jamming signal were to be beamed at SDF bases or other facilities from the surrounding area or if electricity were to be cut off. If a large-scale facility is built on nearby land, it could interfere with SDF troop operations.

The bill makes it possible for the government to order a stop to the use of land that interferes with the functions of the SDF and other organizations or where there is a “clear risk” of such interference. The bill also includes a provision to impose penalties on landowners who do not comply with government orders.

The opposition parties are against the bill, saying it restricts private rights. However, normal use of land, such as for economic activities, will not be restricted. The government should carefully explain in the Diet how the law will be applied in concrete terms.

Komeito initially took a cautious stance on the bill, which caused a delay in the bill’s submission to the Diet. As a result of discussions with the Liberal Democratic Party, it was decided that urban areas would be designated only as normal watch zones for the time being and not as special watch zones, where prepurchase notification will be required, on the grounds that a requirement to submit notification would have a large impact on economic activities.

The government is reportedly planning to exclude even the area around the Defense Ministry in the Ichigaya district of Tokyo from being designated as a special watch zone. However, the ministry is not only a central facility for the defense of Japan, but also a place where PAC-3 surface-to-air guided missiles are deployed when the possibility of attack by ballistic missiles arises.

Without requiring prepurchase notification, it will be difficult to understand the actual status of land ownership due to resale or other moves. Shouldn’t the designation of areas around the ministry as a special watch zone be considered?

To enhance the effectiveness of monitoring land acquisition, information gathering will be key. It is necessary to strengthen cooperation between government ministries and agencies and local governments.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on March 30, 2021.