Japan tightening control of private land on remote islands for ‘national security’ reasons

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 November, 2017, 10:32pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 November, 2017, 10:42pm

The Japanese government will soon consider steps to enhance control over all privately owned land on remote islands to bolster national security and protect resources within Japan’s territorial waters, a government source said on Saturday.

The government plans to set up a panel of experts in the financial year starting next April to discuss land registration by owners who have neglected to do so, and imposing restrictions on land sales to foreigners in such areas, the source said.

The government is concerned that leaving land out of reach of government control could raise security concerns or other problems, such as foreigners setting up bases from which to engage in fish poaching.

According to the Cabinet Office, there are about 480 remote islands around Japan’s borders, excluding the South Korean-controlled Takeshima islets in the Sea of Japan and the Russian-held Kuril Islands off Hokkaido – known in Japan as the Northern Territories.

Of those 480 islands, the government plans to look early next financial year at 98 islands with privately-owned land, to clarify how many lots have unknown owners, the source said.

Many of those 98 islands are located in the Pacific Ocean or within the administrative boundaries of Kagoshima or Okinawa prefectures.

The source said the ownership of land becomes uncertain when those who inherit remote properties fail to complete land registration procedures. In some cases, the registered land owner has remained unchanged for 100 years.

The acquisition of land on remote islands by foreigners is also a concern for the Japanese government. In 2013, ruling party lawmakers were irked when a South Korean company bought land near a Maritime Self-Defence Force facility on Tsushima Island in Nagasaki Prefecture.

During parliamentary deliberation in October 2016, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the acquisition of land in sensitive areas by foreigners is “an important issue concerning national security”.

Under the national security strategy decided in 2013, the government vowed to “engage in the protection” of remote islands near national borders to ensure Japan’s “territorial integrity”.

As of the end of last March, the government had declared 273 uninhabited islands as national property.