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Politics & Security

Concern as Chinese, Foreigners Buy 700 Properties Around Japan’s Defense Sites

The land purchases will allow the buyers to monitor activities at the U.S. military bases, Self-Defense Forces and Japan Coast Guard facilities, and space development installations.

The Sankei Shimbun

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At least 700 properties near the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) facilities, the American military bases, and other sensitive installations have been purchased or are about to be acquired by foreigners, including some with apparent links to the Chinese government. 

The findings of a Japanese government investigation was shared with The Sankei Shimbun on May 13. A government source said the survey examined the real estate situation around key defense facilities and border islands and found a growing number of completed and planned land acquisitions using foreign-capital. 

The investigation was prompted by growing security concerns. 

Especially worrisome to officials is the prospect that the Chinese government, Chinese-controlled corporations, or others working on their behalf have been gobbling up properties that allow them to monitor defense activities in Japan. 

The government is eager to inform the concerned authorities about the possible threat.

Background of the Investigation

The government launched a full-scale investigation into land purchases involving foreign capital in the sensitive areas in 2020. By the fall of that year, it had discovered that there were some 80 cases of property purchases in areas within 10 kilometers of high-security locations in Japan — such as military installations and remote border islands — with possible links to Chinese or other foreign capital. 

RELATED STORY: Survey Finds 80 China Related Land Deals Near Defense Sites

Thereafter, an intense investigation was conducted and it was discovered that there were as many as 700 cases of such land deals.  

According to multiple government sources, these were confirmed cases of planned or completed land purchases near JSDF or U.S. military bases, Japan Coast Guard, space development installations, and other sensitive security facilities. At least some of the properties offer comprehensive vantage points for viewing the security-related installations and for monitoring trends in the operations of Japanese and U.S. military ships and aircraft. 

In a case in Kanagawa Prefecture, for example, the purchaser of land near a U.S. military installation, ostensibly for the construction of an apartment building, was thought to be connected to the Beijing government. In the course of the investigation, it was learned that this same person already owned several high-rise buildings that offered views of the base. This reportedly has raised interest among the U.S. authorities as well. 

In Okinawa Prefecture, a person with apparent ties to a Chinese state corporation was found to have been sounding out the possibility of buying lodging facilities overlooking a key U.S. base. Initially, the person had claimed to be doing so for “American investors.” 

In another case in Tottori Prefecture, it was found that a company belonging to a Chinese group had sought to acquire land near a JSDF base. 

According to a source, a pattern of similar property transactions has been found near radar installations that conduct surveillance of the air and seas around Japan, as well as space development facilities. It was noted that, in some cases, the properties situated near security installations posed a risk of causing harmful effects if jamming or other radio wave interference were to occur. 

New Law to Address the Risk

The National Diet is considering a proposed land use control law in the current session. The law would establish “watch zones” of approximately one kilometer around defense installations, nuclear power plants, and other essential infrastructure. Even more sensitive areas would be designated “close watch zones.” 

These zones would be subject to government monitoring and, in instances where improper property use is confirmed, the authorities would be able to issue a warning or order to desist. 

In addition, property transactions within “close watch zones” would require that prior notification be given to the authorities, confirming the identities of the parties involved and intended use for the property.

(Read The Sankei Shimbun report in Japanese at this link.)

Author: The Sankei Shimbun