HOKKAIDO - From April next year, Japan will tighten its inspection process in issuing visas, especially to Chinese students and researchers, over growing concerns of espionage and foreign interference, the pro-government Yomiuri newspaper said on Monday (Oct 5).
In a front-page report, it said - without naming any sources - that Tokyo sees the move as necessary amid fears that its sensitive technology and security intelligence are being leaked to China - or other countries - by operatives who have been granted entry into Japan as graduate students or academic researchers.
If implemented, Japan will be acting in lockstep with its security ally, the United States, as well as with Australia in raising the guard against alleged Chinese interference.
The report quoted an economic security policy expert as saying: "Chinese students who have been rejected by the US may instead change their targets and come to Japan instead."
This has, in turn, fuelled concerns within the Japanese government that sticking to the status quo would hinder the military cooperation of the two security allies, as well as joint technological research between universities in the two countries.
Both the US and Australia have alleged a systematic and strategic campaign waged by China to steal technology and intelligence through the deployment of graduate students and scholars.
They, alongside Japan and India, are part of the Quad bloc of countries that are leading the Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision that was mooted as a counterweight to Chinese assertiveness.
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi will host a meeting with his Quad counterparts on Tuesday, in what will be the first face-to-face multilateral high-level conference in Tokyo since the Covid-19 pandemic.
China is set to be high on the agenda at the talks, which will be attended by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.
Earlier this year, Washington revoked the visas for more than 1,000 Chinese nationals and said it will suspend the entry of those it deems as security risks, a move which China called a violation of human rights.
The US State Department stressed that the ineligible "high-risk graduate students and research scholars" were but "a small subset" of the 360,000 Chinese who are in the US for study and research, stressing that those who pass background checks will still be welcomed.
Tensions are also high between China and Australia, as both nations accuse each other of jeopardising the safety of their outstationed journalists. Canberra has also stripped at least two Chinese scholars of their visas.
Japan will conduct more vigorous background checks so as to suss out suspicious persons, the Yomiuri report said, through such ways as building a system that allows the inter-ministry access of information.
The Foreign Ministry has requested a budget of 220 million yen (S$2.8 million) for the next fiscal year, for measures related to these stricter examinations.