A law for regulating the use of land plots deemed important for national security purposes took full effect on Sept. 20.

The ruling parties used the weight of their numbers to enact the legislation at the last minute before the ordinary Diet session closed in June last year.

A number of concerns were raised when the bill was being deliberated, including fears it could be used to mount surveillance of residents’ campaigns against military bases and nuclear power plants or pose a threat to free economic activities.

Misgivings were also raised that it could used as an excuse to conduct background checks on residents’ thoughts, beliefs and relationships just because they happen to live near key facilities.

None of these concerns has yet been dispelled.

The central government should set a clear limit on arbitrary application of the law and excessive intervention so no basic human rights will be infringed upon in an unwarranted manner on the pretext of national defense.

The law targets zones that lie within 1 kilometer of bases operated by the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. Forces in Japan, nuclear power facilities and other establishments, as well as remote islands in frontier areas.

Land plots that will be designated “monitored areas” under the law will be subject to reviews much like those conducted for real estate purposes. The authorities may recommend that the user of a plot desist from actions that “impede the functions” of key facilities and, in cases where the user does not comply, order the individual to do so under the threat of penalties, such as imprisonment.

The same measures apply to land plots that will be designated “special monitored areas.” In addition, parties that conduct real estate transactions or take other similar actions in those areas will be required to notify the authorities in advance.

Another problem is that the text of the law contains too many ambiguities, with the details left to the discretion of the government. A basic policy, approved Sept. 16 by the Cabinet ahead of full enforcement of the law, has yet to settle those concerns.

Take, for example, “acts that impede the functions” of key facilities, which the authorities will be allowed to recommend, or order, to be stopped.

The basic policy presents seven types of acts that fall into that category, including the installation of structures that obstruct landings and takeoffs of aircraft and the emission of jamming radio beams. But the document says those merely amount to “illustrations,” so other acts could also be deemed as such.

At the same time, the basic policy presents five illustrative types of acts that will not be deemed as impeding the functions of key facilities, such as living in a residence that commands a view of the grounds of those facilities and holding a meeting on a private plot of land. All of them, however, amount to stating the obvious.

So, in actual fact, the distinction remains as ambiguous as ever, even though the basic policy has added a layer to the process of giving explanations to the real estate user in advance to illustrate that no recommendation will be issued if any irregularity that arises is rectified promptly.

Name, address, registered domicile or nationality, date of birth and gender are among details that may be gathered during reviews of the way parcels of land are used.

The basic policy says that information unrelated to the use of land, including thoughts and beliefs, will not be gathered. But the provision is not a reliable way to prevent excessive background checks on residents’ thoughts because it is up to the government to decide what is related and what is not.

While monitored areas have yet to be designated specifically, the basic policy clearly stated that “relevant local public entities will be asked to provide their views” during the designating processes.

That, however, does not mean designation will require consent of the local governments concerned. Nor is it obvious to what extent their desires and intentions will be taken into account.

It appears inevitable that Okinawa, which hosts the majority of U.S. military bases in Japan and has many remote islands, will be seriously affected by the law because broad zones in the southern prefecture will be designated as “monitored areas.”

Parties including the municipal assemblies of Nago and Chatan in the prefecture have approved written opinions demanding the law be abolished immediately.

Merely asking local governments perfunctorily to provide their views will not help obtain the understanding of community residents. Nor will that increase the chances of the law being implemented in a stable manner.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 25

QOSHE - EDITORIAL: Concerns linger about arbitrary application of land use law - The Asahi Shimbun
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EDITORIAL: Concerns linger about arbitrary application of land use law

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26.09.2022

A law for regulating the use of land plots deemed important for national security purposes took full effect on Sept. 20.

The ruling parties used the weight of their numbers to enact the legislation at the last minute before the ordinary Diet session closed in June last year.

A number of concerns were raised when the bill was being deliberated, including fears it could be used to mount surveillance of residents’ campaigns against military bases and nuclear power plants or pose a threat to free economic activities.

Misgivings were also raised that it could used as an excuse to conduct background checks on residents’ thoughts, beliefs and relationships just because they happen to live near key facilities.

None of these concerns has yet been dispelled.

The central government should set a clear limit on arbitrary application of the law and excessive intervention so no basic human rights will be infringed upon in an unwarranted manner on the pretext of national defense.

The law targets zones that lie within 1 kilometer of bases operated by the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. Forces in Japan, nuclear power facilities and other establishments, as well as remote........

© The Asahi Shimbun


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