Law must be first step to monitor deals involving foreign capital

The new legislation should be the first step to ensure the proper management of land that is important to national security, such as areas around Self-Defense Forces facilities. More measures are also necessary to prevent foreign capital from entering Japan for unclear purposes.

The Law on the Review and Regulation of the Use of Real Estate Surrounding Important Facilities and on Remote Territorial Islands, enacted in June last year, will come fully into force in the middle of next month. It will apply to land within a 1-kilometer radius around SDF and Japan Coast Guard facilities and the premises of nuclear power plants among others as well as remote islands that serve as a base point for territorial waters and other boundaries.

The government will examine the use of land it designates as “watch zones” and be able to issue an order to cease acts that are confirmed to interfere with the function of the facilities. The government will also be able to impose penalties on those who do not comply.

In particularly important “special watch zones,” prior notification will be required for the purchase and sale of land that exceeds a certain size.

A total of more than 600 sites are said to be candidates for these government designations. The Cabinet Office unit that manages relevant information has only about 30 staff members. Cooperation with ministries and agencies as well as local governments hosting the designated zones is essential.

The purpose of the law is to prevent foreign nations from using such land as a base from which to conduct espionage, terrorism or other such activities. The purchase of land involving capital from South Korea in the city of Tsushima, Nagasaki Prefecture, became a problem. In Hokkaido resort areas, Chinese companies have been making acquisitions on a large scale.

Japan has been much too vulnerable to land acquisitions involving foreign capital. It is only natural to keep a watchful eye.

Prior to the full enforcement of the law, the government presented seven examples of activities subject to regulation, including the installation of structures and the emitting of laser beams. On the other hand, activities such as holding gatherings are not subject to regulation. This is reportedly because the government gave due consideration to the people’s concern about restrictions on private rights.

However, new forms of obstructive acts beyond the scope of these examples are anticipated due to technological advances and other factors. It is hoped that such acts will be properly dealt with without hesitation.

The law will make it easier to track the status of land and building use, but it will not prevent land transactions themselves. The current system is insufficient in that it cannot deal with obstructive acts until they occur.

Many other countries strictly regulate the involvement of foreign capital to acquire land. In the United States, screening is required when foreign investors intend to buy real estate around military facilities, with the U.S. president authorized to block transactions.

Japan should also discuss legislation that goes as far as restricting transactions when there are security concerns.

The government is unlikely to designate the area around the Defense Ministry in Ichigaya, Tokyo, as a special watch zone. It said consideration was given to the possible impact on economic activities, but questions remain about excluding the nerve center of the country’s defense from the designation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 21, 2022)