Japan Cabinet OKs Security Clearance Bill

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Prime Minister’s Office

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The government approved at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday a bill to introduce a security clearance system to certify individuals who are allowed to handle important information on economic security.

The bill designates, for example, information related to measures against cyberattack threats and supply chains for important materials as important economic security information. It carries a penalty of imprisonment of up to five years for those who leak such key information.

The bill on the protection and use of important economic security information would complement the existing law on the protection of specially designated secrets, which provides a security clearance system for information in four areas that require higher confidentiality — defense, diplomacy, counterintelligence and counterterrorism — and imposes harsher punishments for offenders.

While the designated secrets protection law, which took effect in 2014, mainly affects government employees, the new bill would also cover members of the private sector, such as those involved in research and development at companies.

Whether to apply the existing law or the new law would be decided depending on the degree of importance of the information being handled.

In certifying individuals who are allowed to handle important economic security information, the bill calls for the government to carry out background checks, with the candidates’ consent, on seven items, including criminal and disciplinary records, history of psychiatric disorders and the nationality of family members. The certificates would be valid for 10 years.

Japan is the only country among the Group of Seven major industrialized nations that does not have a security clearance system covering economic security information.

The need to establish such a system had been pointed out as there have been cases where Japanese firms could not take part in international joint research projects that required relevant qualifications.

“The bill is very important for further strengthening Japan’s economic security,” economic security minister Sanae Takaichi told a press conference Tuesday, adding that the government will do its best to have the bill enacted during the ongoing ordinary parliamentary session.