Japan to block land deals near military bases and border islands

Photo: AP Yoshihide Suga

Japan has initiated a major change in its legislation that will affect major transactions in areas linked to national security. The state will have a tighter grip on deals in border regions and areas associated to military objects as Chinese buyers are mulling large real estate deals, Reuters reported.

The cabinet passed a bill to oversee land deals near defence bases, border islands. The government plans to submit the draft to parliament that requires planned purchases to be reported to the authorities when the land is deemed highly sensitive to national security. Deals in urban areas may be exempt if they affect economic activity, and the regulations will apply regardless of a buyer’s nationality.

“I’m determined to pass the bill during the current session of parliament by any means,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told parliament. The United States already has regulations to review property purchases near US military bases and Britain is looking at one this year. Japanese policymakers are particularly concerned about Chinese acquisitions, citizens of that country have been buying forests in resort areas, mainly in the northern island of Hokkaido, and one purchase involved land near New Chitose Airport and military facilities in Hokkaido. Registration of property is not a mandatory in Japan and such records are incomplete, making it hard to find landowners’ information. Experts say security needs to be considered alongside free market principles.

“It requires a balance between how much the government can watch the private sector’s land deals while securing private rights,” said Nobukatsu Kanehara, professor at Doshisha University told Reuters.

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