March 6, 2021 Ryukyu Shimpo By Yukinao Chinen
Tokyo – The Japanese government is planning to enact a bill with the current Diet that would further restrict the sale of land around facilities that are important for security. They confirmed the outline for this bill on March 5. If the bill is enacted, any land within one kilometer of U.S. military or Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) installations will be designated as “supervised areas,” and the personal information and land utilization data of owners will be reviewed, and if it is determined that it “impedes the function of the installation,” they will order a suspension of its use. Some within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have voiced concerns over the restriction of private rights as well as economic impacts including land prices. In Okinawa, where many of the bases are concentrated, there is a chance that the restricted area could expand considerably.
The formal name of the bill is “The land use survey and usage restrictions for areas around important facilities and isolated islands on national borders.” The goal is to protect defense facilities from concerns such as enemy reconnaissance, invasion, or electronic interference.
A one-kilometer area around U.S. army, JSDF, and Japanese coast guard facilities, and outlying islands near national borders will be individually designated as “supervised areas,” and the government will conduct a survey of land owner information and land utilization data based on real estate registers and basic resident registers. As needed, they will request information from land owners, and will have the ability to command them to suspend use of the land. Designated areas will be determined based on the opinion of an investigative council.
The bases which also host command functions, as well as the strategically important border islands will be designated “special supervised areas,” and will require both parties engaged in a land sale to disclose their personal information as well as their intended use of the land.
If owners do not comply with an order to suspend use of the land, they can be penalized with up to two years in prison, and a fine no more than 2 million yen. If needed, Japan may also buy the land.
There are 33 U.S. military bases, 50 JSDF facilities, and 8 coast guard posts in Okinawa. Many of these neighbor populated areas, and theoretically if all of these facilities and their one-kilometer surroundings are designated as supervised areas, starting with Ginowan, which has the MCAS Futenma at its center, the area would cover most of the residential and commercial areas in Okinawa’s central region.
The LDP approved the bill at the first cabinet joint session on February 18.
Meanwhile, the Komeito Party, who rules in a coalition with the LDP, has acknowledged the aim of the bill, however due to concerns over the economic impacts, a representative from the party expressed caution over “if the measure was suitable.”
Another insider voiced their skepticism, saying, “this could lead to confining the anti-base movement.”
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said at a meeting with the Upper House Budget Committee on March 5, “I would like to enact this during the current legislative session by any means necessary,” indicating his strong desire to see it passed. The government has indicated they will make a cabinet decision on the bill this month.
(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)