The Yomiuri ShimbunTo strengthen surveillance of land transactions that could threaten Japan’s security, and to ensure the protection of territorial waters and maritime interests, the government plans to conduct this fiscal year its first fact-finding survey of private land on remote border islands (see below), which are used as base points to determine Japan’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zones.
The government intends to create a system to designate “important land in terms of integrity,” and take protective measures for the land, according to sources.
The survey will be carried out as a concrete step for the “integrity and administration of remote border islands,” which is part of the pillars of the next-term Basic Plan on Ocean Policy. The new basic plan will serve as a guideline for the government’s maritime policy during the five-year period starting in fiscal 2018.
Of the 525 remote border islands, 98 with private land will be the target of the survey. The Cabinet Office plans to establish an expert panel by this summer and decide the definition of “important land in terms of integrity,” according to the sources.
Specifically, the survey will focus mainly on surrounding areas of water sources, airports and ports, and power generation facilities, as well as coastal land. It will prioritize private land that meets the definition and clarify who the owners are, why they acquired the land and other facts based on information from their real-estate registration.
As soon as the survey results are compiled, the government will also promote discussion on measures to protect the land
There is a view within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that if someone acquires land that is important in terms of integrity, that person should be required to report the land transaction to government entities.
The government’s survey of private land on remote border islands was prompted by mounting concern about national security, as shown in cases in which part of land sold by island residents was resold to foreigners or purchased with foreign funds. For example, on Tsushima Island in Nagasaki Prefecture, land near the Maritime Self-Defense Force base was purchased with South Korean capital.
As depopulation is conspicuous on remote border islands, it is expected that land acquisition by foreign funds will be accelerated.
For that reason, some within the LDP are calling for the government to take countermeasures, with one party member saying, “The government should swiftly grasp what is really going on and prevent foreigners from poaching marine life, wiretapping defense facilities and other activities.”
By the end of March this year, the government had surveyed the ownership of land adjacent to about 650 facilities nationwide related to the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military, including remote border islands, confirming there is no operational disruption in these locations.
The survey to be conducted this fiscal year will target land other than that around defense facilities.
For the integrity and administration of remote border islands, the government named 158 remote islands that did not have names in August 2014, and has taken measures, including economic assistance, based on the special measures law that went into effect in April 2017 to safeguard inhabited remote border island areas.
■Remote border islands
Remote islands that serve as a base to determine the outer boundary of a country, such as territorial waters and the EEZ. There are 525 such islands in Japan. The special measures law for maintaining the integrity of inhabited remote islands designates 148 islands in 29 areas, including Ogasawara Islands in Tokyo and Yaeyama Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, as “inhabited remote border islands” to preserve. Among them, 71 islands in 15 areas, including Tsushima Island in Nagasaki Prefecture and Oki Islands in Shimane Prefecture, were designated as “specific inhabited border island area” where measures are taken to support residents, such as lowering fares for sea and air routes.