• Jiji


Komeito, which is part of the ruling coalition together with the Liberal Democratic Party, is cautious about an LDP-approved bill to restrict the acquisition and use of land lots close to sites sensitive for national security, making it uncertain when or even if it will be possible for the bill to be introduced.

The administration of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga dropped its initial plan to adopt the bill at a Cabinet meeting last Tuesday due to the lack of support from Komeito, although it aims to get the bill enacted during the ongoing Diet session.

Komeito is concerned such a bill could provoke criticism as a hindrance to private rights. “We’re not in a stage to seek enactment (of the bill) during this session,” party executive Kazuo Kitagawa told a news conference Thursday.

“It’ll take more time as talks, including with the government, are continuing,” said Kitagawa, who serves as a coordinator between the ruling parties.

The bill calls for areas within 1 kilometer of defense-related facilities, including U.S. bases as well as key infrastructure locations, to be designating as “closely monitored” districts, and for the government to be authorized to check the name and nationality of owners of land lots in the districts, as well as the purposes for which the land lots are used.

The bill also includes penalties for the improper use of such land lots.

The bill has been drawn up in light of past situations in which land lots around Self-Defense Forces facilities were acquired by foreign nationals, including Chinese and South Koreans, which apparently was a source of concern for some LDP members.

The LDP approved the bill at a related party meeting on Feb. 18. The bill is a “big achievement,” a defense-savvy LDP lawmaker said at the time. “The Public Security Intelligence Agency must be happy with the bill, which will allow it to immediately survey suspicious land lots.”

Meanwhile, the mood within Komeito is totally different. While some young and middle-age party members support the bill, many veteran members including former party leader Akihiro Ota are opposed to it.

Yoshio Urushibara, Komeito’s former parliamentary affairs chief, said in an online post that the bill calls for “broad-based restrictions of private rights” and is “excessive.”

Some in the LDP suspect that Komeito’s cautious stance on the bill reflects its consideration for China, with which the party used to have strong connections.

Talks on the bill between the parties have stalled, partly because the LDP side’s coordinator, former internal affairs minister Yoshitaka Shindo, has COVID-19.

Nevertheless, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a news conference on Thursday that the government is working to submit the bill as soon as possible.

With the government busy responding to the pandemic, as well as conflict-of-interest scandals involving senior officials, an LDP executive said, “it may be difficult for the government to even submit the bill.”

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