A recent increase in the number of Chinese and South Korean companies purchasing plots of land near Japanese military bases has led Tokyo to consider limiting such sales, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Tuesday.
“Work is underway on the outline of a basic policy and that will be completed before the end of this year,” an official within Japan’s Cabinet Secretariat told the newspaper.
“One of the proposals is for a more complete examination of the reason for the purchase of the land by a foreign company, something that is not specifically required at present,” the official, who declined to be identified, added.
The investigative body is reportedly currently examining foreign land purchases throughout Japan. Based on the panel’s end of the year report, “the government will submit related legislation to next year’s regular session of the Diet [national legislature] to be convened in January,” the Japan Times reported on November 7, shortly after Tokyo agreed to establish the council.
At least 80 plots of land located near Japanese military installations have been purchased by either Chinese or South Korean companies over the past decade. The number of such land transactions has sharply increased in recent years, according to the panel.
“We first started closely monitoring these sales seven years ago, but the situation has become much more acute in the last few years,” the Japanese government official told the SCMP on Tuesday.
A Chinese corporation in late 2016 attempted to buy nearly six acres of residential land on Japan’s remote island of Taketomi, one of the most southerly islands in the Okinawa archipelago. Taketomi is located just 100 miles from the disputed Senkaku Islands, which are ruled by Japan but claimed by China. The Taketomi town council intervened at the last minute to prevent the sale, purchasing the plot of land so that it would not fall into the hands of a foreign entity, according to the SCMP.
Elsewhere in Japan, Chinese companies have succeeded in buying strategically located land parcels. A Chinese company acquired 20 acres of forest located two miles from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s Chitose Air Base in Tomakomai on the island of Hokkaido in June 2014. Though the sale was reported at a local government meeting before it went through, the Chinese company managed to complete the transaction, according to the Japan Times.
Similarly, in September 2013, a South Korean company successfully bought land near Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force base on the island of Tsushima in Nagasaki Prefecture despite the sale being flagged for discussion beforehand by the local assembly. Tsushima is located about 30 miles from South Korea’s coast. Its close proximity to the neighboring country has long made the island a strategic military outpost for Japan’s military. Some South Koreans claim Tsushima as a Korean island.
“When the Korean investor bought the land on Tsushima we began to look into the legal issues but the additional cases have prompted these proposals,” the Japanese Cabinet Secretariat official told the SCMP on Tuesday.
“We cannot answer whether the Chinese government is behind some of these deals because it is often difficult to trace a purchase back to the real investor or find a connection to the government because there can be layers of front companies involved,” he added.