Japan approves Bill to oversee land deals near defence bases, border islands

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in Tokyo on March 21, 2021.
Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in Tokyo on March 21, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan's Cabinet on Friday (March 26) approved a Bill that will tighten oversight of land deals and land use near military facilities and border islands, reflecting Tokyo's concern about overseas security risks.

The government plans to submit a Bill to Parliament that requires planned purchases to be reported to the authorities when the land is deemed highly sensitive to national security.

Deals in urban areas may be exempt if they affect economic activity, and the regulations will apply regardless of a buyer's nationality.

"I'm determined to pass the Bill during the current session of Parliament by any means," Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told Parliament this month.

The United States already has regulations to review property purchases near US military bases and Britain is looking at one this year.

Japanese policymakers are particularly concerned about Chinese acquisitions; citizens of that country have been buying forests in resort areas, mainly in the northern island of Hokkaido, and one purchase involved land near New Chitose Airport and military facilities in Hokkaido.

Reuters could not reach that buyer, as local authorities did not reveal enough information to search Japan's land registry.

Registration of property is not mandatory in Japan and such records are incomplete, making it hard to find landowners' information.

Experts say security needs to be considered alongside free market principles.

"It requires a balance between how much the government can watch the private sector's land deals while securing private rights," said Professor Nobukatsu Kanehara of Doshisha University.