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Japan, U.S. sign fingerprint data exchange pact

JIJI

Japan and the United States on Friday signed a bilateral security agreement that allows both countries to exchange fingerprint data of suspected criminals in order to prevent and solve serious crimes.

The Agreement on Enhancing Cooperation in Preventing and Combating Serious Crime, known as the PCSC accord, allows the two countries to access each other’s criminal fingerprint database online for automatic and real-time checks.

Under the accord, fingerprints of suspicious foreign individuals found on arrival, those of suspects for serious crimes such as terrorism and murder, and those taken from crime scenes in one country are matched against the fingerprints on the other country’s database.

If fingerprints are identical, their images will be provided. If necessary, the names and criminal records of the people in question can be requested. The National Police Agency and the FBI will query each other’s database.

The two sides check fingerprint data under the accord in their investigations into crimes punished by prison terms of at least three years as well as 34 specific crimes with prison terms of at least one year, including drug-related ones and theft.

About 10.4 million fingerprints are kept by the NPA. But the agency will not allow those of people who have been acquitted or not indicted for alleged crimes to be compared. The fingerprints of minors, except those convicted, will not be included in those to be matched against either.

The United States will make about 70 million fingerprints available for the checks.

Japan plans to adopt necessary legislation this month for submission to the Diet. After the legislation is enacted, the government will create a dedicated fingerprint database and implement information security measures such as limiting access and keeping access logs.

The two countries are expected to start exchanging fingerprint data under the accord in several years.

Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States has concluded similar agreements with 37 countries and regions whose citizens do not need to obtain visas to enter the country.

Japan agreed to sign the pact last September. The pact will allow Japan to maintain visa-free status for some 3.5 million Japanese who visit the United States every year.

Japan also hopes that it will help uncover suspects in unresolved criminal cases.