Japan Govt Eyes Establishing Centralized Certification Entity for Security Clearance System

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Economic security minister Sanae Takaichi, left, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are seen at a meeting in March.

The government plans to set up a new organization that will centrally certify handlers of sensitive information in the field of economic security under the proposed security clearance system, according to government sources.

The envisaged organization is expected to investigate criminal records and other background information of government officials and private-sector employees for certifying them as handlers of sensitive information on artificial intelligence and semiconductors, the sources said.

By establishing a strict screening process, the government aims to build a system that allows Japan to share and exchange key information with partner countries in the hope of promoting participation in international joint research and development projects.

The lack of such a system has put the country at a great disadvantage. In certain cases, Japan has been unable to take part in joint research projects as other countries expressed concerns over the protection of information.

The introduction of the envisaged system is expected to allow Japan to jointly conduct research and development projects with the United States and other countries, providing business opportunities to Japanese companies.

Government officials and private-sector researchers who take part in joint research and development work on sensitive government information will be investigated.

Specifically, the government aims to protect information related to AI and semiconductors, and most likely information on threats posed by cyber-attacks and defenses against them as well.

The envisaged organization will conduct personnel background checks on candidates to handle sensitive information by obtaining their consent over the following points: criminal and disciplinary records, career of information handling, drug abuse records, mental disorders, degrees of drinking and economic conditions, including debt.

After government organizations that possess sensitive information determine there are no problems, the candidates will be authorized to handle the information.

With the investigation process centralized, private businesses will not have to undergo the screening process each time if they conclude contracts involving exchanges of sensitive information with multiple government organizations.

Regarding the Defense Ministry and some other government departments that have their own strict standards, a separate plan has been proposed to allow them to individually conduct investigations.

The information subject to the envisaged system is expected to be categorized into two groups according to the degree of importance. Punishment for leaking such information can be up to 10 years in prison, according to the sources, and which of the two categories the information belongs to will likely be reflected in the degree of punishment.

The government’s expert panel is expected to compile its proposal on the proposed system as early as January. Based on the proposal, the government intends to submit related bills to the ordinary Diet session next year, according to the sources.