Japan eyes land deal restrictions near SDF camps in Okinawa

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The entrance of the Ground Self-Defense Forces’ Camp Yonaguni in Okinawa Prefecture is seen in December.

The government is considering designating about 200 locations, including areas near two Ground Self-Defense Forces’ camps in Okinawa Prefecture — Camp Yonaguni and Camp Miyakojima — as Special Monitored Areas, based on the law on the regulation of the use of real estate that is important to security, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The move is in line with the planned enforcement of the law in September.

The law regulates the use of land around facilities important to national security and on remote islands near national borders. Under the law, prior notification of the names, addresses and nationalities of the buyer and seller, as well as the purpose of the use of the land, are required when dealing with land larger than a certain size in a Special Monitored Area.

However, in less-restricted Monitored Areas, the government investigates the actual use of the land.

In both categories of areas, the government can order the suspension of activities that disrupt the functioning of remote islands and important facilities, and such activities are subject to punishment.

As China has intensified military activities around the Nansei Islands, including the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, the government has determined that there is a strong need to introduce such regulations in areas around the two camps.

In addition, more than 100 locations around SDF bases and camps, which have special functions such as surveillance and air defense, and about 40 uninhabited remote islands near borders, which are not state-owned land, are expected to be designated as Special Monitored Areas.

Camp Yonaguni, located in the town of Yonaguni, has a coastal observation unit, while Camp Miyakojima, in the city of Miyakojima, has a missile defense battery. If foreigners acquire land near these camps, obstructive activities, such as jamming, could be matters of concern.

The government considers privately owned Kuba Island, one of the Senkaku Islands, as a candidate site for the Special Monitored Areas. However, if the island is designated, countermeasures from China are expected, so the government is carefully considering the designation of the island.

Some senior government officials believe designating urban areas will be difficult, such as the Ichigaya district in Tokyo, where the Defense Ministry’s main building is located.

The government also plans to designate as Monitored Areas some coast guard facilities, including the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters in Naha, as well as some 30 nuclear-related facilities and areas around airports that are jointly used by the SDF and civilian entities, such as Naha Airport.