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Politics

Japan to strengthen rules to prevent technology leaks

Much tougher fines, investment restrictions sought to tighten net

A Tokyo Electron plant in Miyagi Prefecture is seen here. Cutting-edge semiconductors are among the technologies that the Japanese government seeks to protect.

TOKYO -- Japan looks to bolster regulations on the export of advanced technology that could be diverted to military use, seeking to keep sensitive information and materials away from other countries and help domestic companies retain their edge.

Government permission is required to export cutting-edge materials or technology such as carbon fiber -- which can be used in aircraft and centrifuges -- and power-amplifying semiconductors. Current law provides for penalties of 5 million yen to 10 million yen ($44,300 to $88,600) for both individuals and companies.

One proposed revision imposes fines of up to 30 million yen on individuals who leak technology related to weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear weaponry, and 20 million yen for leaks related to conventional arms such as handguns or land mines. The caps for businesses would rise to 1 billion yen and 700 million yen, respectively.

Tighter restrictions also are planned on foreign investment in Japanese companies. The government currently need be notified only in cases involving publicly listed Japanese businesses. The revisions would expand notification to unlisted enterprises and empower the government to order violators to sell the acquired stock.

Company directors who illegally leaked technology in the past would be banned from taking on similar duties elsewhere or going into business for themselves.

The cabinet plans to approve the proposed revisions early next month, with a bill submitted to the Diet during this session.

Japan has seen a number of unlawful technology exports and attempted violations. Yamaha Motor was found in 2007 to have attempted an illegal sale of unmanned helicopters with potential military applications to China. A manufacturer based in the city of Kawasaki exported precision measurement equipment that can be used in nuclear weapons development, and another Japanese company was found to have illegally exported carbon fiber to China.

Foreign investments have become a concern in recent years as well. Some worry that an acquisition of a Japanese company with advanced technology could threaten national security as well as make Japanese businesses less competitive.

(Nikkei)

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