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Scope of bill restricting land purchases still vague

  • June 11, 2021
  • , Asahi , p. 4
  • JMH Translation

By Kotegawa Taro, staff writer


On June 10, the Upper House Committee on Cabinet and Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense held a joint session to discuss a bill aimed at restricting use of land near such sensitive facilities as nuclear power plants, Self-Defense Forces (SDF) bases, and remote border islands. The debate centered on clarifying the scope of land that would be subject to the restriction, including whether the rules apply to Okinawa Prefecture and the Ministry of Defense.


If enacted, the bill would enable the central government to designate land within a 1-km radius of core facilities such as military bases as “monitoring zones,” where the government could investigate owners and tenants of the land or buildings.


Inami Yoichi, who belongs to Upper House caucus “Okinawa no Kaze,” pointed out that every island in Okinawa, including the Okinawa mainland, falls under the category of “remote border island with residents” in the bill and could be designated as monitoring zone. “Could all inhabited areas of Okinawa be subject to monitoring?” asked Inami.


Minister in charge of Territorial Issues Okonogi Hachiro admitted, “Yes, all are included.” Okonogi said, however, that not all islands in Okinawa will be designated immediately, explaining, “We will evaluate areas surrounding defense installations and port facilities used for defense activities before designating specific areas.”


Inami then pointed out that in Ginowan City, where he was once mayor, 90% of the city’s residents lived within 1 km of the U.S. base. “The U.S. bases are built on the land taken from the residents. It is unreasonable to treat those living around the bases as security risks and impose a burden on them,” he said.


At a separate Cabinet Committee meeting convened after the joint meeting, Tamura Tomoko from the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) asked whether the area around the U.S. military housing and recreation facilities in Tokyo could also be monitored. The deputy director general of the Bureau of Local Cooperation at the Defense Ministry didn’t give a direct answer, saying instead, “We’d like to avoid prejudgment.” Tamura responded: “I cannot believe you can’t even state that neither the housing compound nor golf courses and campground are included.”


Meanwhile, the bill designates areas around especially sensitive facilities as “special monitoring zones,” where the sale or purchase of extensive land would require advance application.


The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito have previously reached an agreement to exempt such downtown locations as the area around the Ministry of Defense in Tokyo’s Ichigaya district once the bill is enacted. During the committees’ joint session, however, the government didn’t admit there would be an exemption. 


Minister of Defense Kishi Nobuo said: “[The Defense Ministry in] Ichigaya is the core of Japan’s defense. Nothing can replace it as the control center for the operations of SDF troops stationed nationwide. As such, the area could be regarded as meeting the requirement [to be designated as a special monitoring zone].”


Okonogi said: “It is natural that there are different opinions among members of the ruling and opposition parties,” adding, “As the minister in charge, I’ve not yet made any promises.”


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