Foreign students and Japanese researchers who are “under the strong influence of foreign governments” will soon be required to seek permission from the trade minister to access technology, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
According to sources related to the government, the system aims to prevent the outflow through Japanese universities and research institutes to foreign countries of advanced technology that can be used for military purposes. In cases where security concerns are strong, the government will not give permission to prevent technology leaks.
The ministry aims to revise the notification of the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law to start the operation of the system by fiscal 2022.
China is said to be seeking to acquire technology that can be used for military purposes by providing funds to its students and researchers sent abroad and to foreigners, including Japanese.
The law stipulates that the provision of sensitive technology that can be used for military purposes to foreign nationals is considered as de facto export even if the provision is done in Japan. This export requires permission from the Economy, Trade and Industry Minister.
Under the current system, however, foreigners who have been employed in Japan or who have been in the country for six months are treated as residents. As permission is not needed to provide military technology to residents in Japan, the government has been considering ways to tighten regulations on such cases, saying they constitute a loophole for technology leaks.
For the revised notification, universities, research institutes and companies that intend to provide technology to residents will be required to apply for permission from the minister if they are deemed to be strongly influenced by foreign governments and corporations through employment or financial assistance.
Japanese researchers are of course considered residents, but if they are strongly influenced by a foreign country, they will also be subject to the same restrictions. If giving access to technology to such researchers can be regarded as the same as the provision to foreigners, the government considers it will be possible to regulate the outflow by changing the interpretation of the current law.
The new system targets researchers and others participating in China’s Thousand Talents Plan, which aims to attract human resources from around the world. The Japanese government will also expedite efforts to establish criteria to determine whether a person is “under the strong influence of foreign governments.”
Universities, among other organizations, are expected to be in charge of investigating the relationship between foreign students and researchers, and foreign governments. The government is also considering sharing information with universities on their state of foreign funding and work experience at foreign institutions.
On the other hand, to not interfere with the independence of research activities, the government plans to exempt from regulation the provision of information on basic research to foreign students, the disclosure of general information on patent applications and the publication of papers by researchers.