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Politics

Japan restricts land deals near strategic assets

New law mandates disclosure of foreign ownership for property near command centers

The U.S. military's Futenma air base in Okinawa: A Japanese bill seeks to tighten restrictions on deals for land near key military and civilian infrastructure.   © Kyodo

 TOKYO -- Japanese lawmakers early Wednesday passed legislation restricting purchases of land near defense force bases or other areas with national security implications.

The law, which seeks to prevent foreign owners from misusing such land, passed in an upper house vote with cross-partisan support.

It aims to fill what proponents say is a reporting vacuum on land transactions that leaves strategically located properties at risk of falling into the wrong hands.

Set to take effect in fiscal 2022, the law will classify areas within 1 km of Self-Defense Forces and Japan Coast Guard facilities, nuclear plants and other sensitive sites as requiring scrutiny.

They will be subject to a government review of owners' names and nationalities as well as leasing rights. An owner found to have close ties to a foreign country will have to report the purpose of use.

An additional level of scrutiny will apply for property near SDF command centers or on uninhabited islands far from the Japanese mainland. Prospective buyers will need to file their names, addresses and plans for the land in advance.

If the authorities find a risk that the acquired property could be used in a way that threatens national security, such as through jamming signals or cutting infrastructure lifelines, the government could block the use of the land, enforced by the threat of fines or imprisonment.

For land requiring additional scrutiny, submitting false information on the transaction or failing to report the deal in advance will carry a prison sentence of up to six months or a maximum fine of 1 million yen ($9,000).

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