Connect with us

Economy & Tech

EDITORIAL | Japan's Economic Security Clearance System to Boost Collaborations

Previously, the lack of a security clearance system became a bottleneck to Japanese companies' joint development with US and EU governments and research institutes.



Minister in Charge of Economic Security of Japan Sanae Takaichi (third from left), speaks at an expert panel meeting on the establishment of the security clearance system on December 20 in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. (©Kyodo)

A government-appointed expert panel has compiled recommendations for the creation of a security clearance system. It would limit access to sensitive economic security-related information to qualified individuals in the public and private sectors. 

The key recommendations of the expert panel include limiting the system's application to government-controlled information. Additionally, the panel suggested a centralized system where the government would conduct background investigations. This process would identify which government employees and private citizens should be considered qualified to have authorized access to this information. Any individual being so investigated would also have to consent to such a background check. 

The recommendations are reasonable. The government now intends to enact legislation based on these recommendations during the ordinary session of the Diet that begins on January 26. We would like to see the creation of a highly effective system. This would allow the sharing and use of classified information among authorized individuals in the public and private sectors. 

Bottleneck in International Collaboration

A similar system indeed exists under the 2014 Law on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets. However, the scope of that law is limited to defense, diplomacy, and the prevention of espionage and terrorism. It does not necessarily cover information related to economic security. In this respect, Japan is lagging behind the United States and European countries that already have systems in place. 

Crucially, there are loud calls in the private sector for the creation of such a system. That is because the lack of such a system has become a bottleneck to participation by Japanese companies in joint development with the US and European governments and research institutes. Consequently, the creation of a system under which the Japanese government vouches for the reliability of security for confidential information would be highly significant.

Such restricted information might include vulnerabilities in the supply chain for critical materials, economic security regulations, and cyber-related information. The recommendations call for "flexible and expeditious" designation and removal of information that is covered by the proposed system. To do that will require detailed responses through laws and ordinances.

Balancing Thoroughness and Privacy

Regarding background checks to confirm the suitability of a given individual for access to confidential information, the panel said that there was no reason to handle them differently from investigations under the "specifically designated secrets system."  


In that case, categories of investigation would include things like involvement in terrorist activities, criminal history, and drug abuse. The investigation should be rigorous, as qualified individuals would be dealing with confidential information. 

Yutaka Saito, Vice President of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, reads a written opinion opposing the security clearance system at a press conference on January 24 in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. (©Kyodo)

At the same time, it would not be appropriate to investigate in a manner that would be viewed as infringing on privacy or human rights. The panel recommended that any background check must be with the consent of the individual being investigated. It also stated that any individual who refuses to grant such consent should not be disadvantaged because of that refusal through measures like unreasonable reassignment within his or her organization. It is vital that the new system effectively guarantees such protection. 

The panel also recommended that highly confidential information be considered at "the same level'' as that covered by the Specially Designated Secrets Law. Under this law, penalties include imprisonment for up to 10 years. Leaks of classified information should be dealt with severely, including penalties for organizations as well as individuals.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

Our Partners