Japanese Citizens Must Discuss Maintaining Territorial Integrity and Clarifying the Role of the JSDF in the Constitution

Seiji Fuji

For the sake of territorial integrity, land purchases by foreign nationals should be regulated

 On April 28, The Sankei Shimbun Morning Edition’s Seiron (“Just Arguments”) column featured an article by University of Tokyo Emeritus Professor Keiichiro Kobori, titled, “Territorial Integrity is the Obligation of State Sovereignty.” Kobori holds an annual citizen rally commemorating the restoration of Japan’s sovereignty as an independent state through the peace treaty that came into force on April 28, 1952. The article reads:

Viewing territory as an issue of national sovereignty, at our annual rally we have continually encouraged the people of Japan to be concerned about various topics. These include the Northern Territories, which are an inherent part of Japan’s territory. They were unlawfully invaded by Russia (then the Soviet Union) after the armistice in World War II, and have since been occupied by Russia. Other issues include South Korea’s illegal occupation of Takeshima in Shimane Prefecture and the critical situation in the Senkaku Islands ocean area in Okinawa Prefecture.
I hope citizens will be suitably aware of and take an active interest in these dangerous circumstances.
Territorial integrity is the obligation of national sovereignty.
There are latent risks involved in foreign nationals using their wealth to buy portions of Japanese territory and administering them as their own private property. These dangers are certainly concealed; they are not evident in a direct, clear fashion.
Japan has a long history of legally recognizing private land ownership, including the Shoen manors of the Heian period. Article 27 of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan states that property rights are inviolate, and the current Constitution of Japan guarantees property rights in Article 29. Of course, this provision is sufficient for landowners who are Japanese citizens.
Naturally, the state provides different rights and obligations depending on whether the individual is a Japanese or foreign citizen. It stands to reason that asset-related rights differ to some degree between Japanese and foreign citizens.
The objective is protecting peace for citizens.
The government’s stance is not one of regulating the trend of land buying by foreign nationals and foreign investors – it is merely performing reviews to understand the current situation. It should take an approach of inhibiting these real estate purchases from the perspective of national security. Otherwise, foreign countries will take note of Japan’s carelessness and assume that it welcomes foreign investment.
When looking at circumstances according to the schema of public and private, the global community appears to be the public world, while putting priority on Japanese interests is a demand for private rights. Some likely interpret this as discrimination based on nationality, and might think Japanese people are ungracious.
During the previous century’s clashes between imperialist countries and the Cold War that followed, the law of political morality has not become completely universal in the international community. It is certainly not the case that public justice is esteemed.
In this harsh environment ruled by survival of the fittest, the most important thing is to maintain our nation’s sovereignty – its private rights – to fully ensure peace for citizens and maintain our territory. We must not worry whether other nations will feel dissatisfaction or resentment caused by discrimination that may occur in legal privileges. Rather, Japan’s ‘reason of state’ must be to withstand this. That is what the citizens should do as well.
With obstacles in place to regulating land purchases by foreign citizens, Japanese people need to pay more attention to this topic

 The Act on the Review and Regulation of the Use of Real Estate Surrounding Important Facilities and on Remote Territorial Islands was passed in the National Diet in June 2021. It seems like Kobori is referring to this when he says, “The government’s stance is not one of regulating the trend of land buying by foreign nationals and foreign investors – it is merely performing reviews to understand the current situation.” This law establishes “monitored areas,” remote islands and areas roughly one kilometer around critical infrastructure facilities like Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) bases and nuclear power plants. It allows the government to review the use of real estate in these areas, including the owner’s nationality and name. The law also defines “special monitored areas” of particularly high importance. These require prior notification of a buyer’s nationality and name before the sale of land or buildings. Acts that impede important infrastructure facilities are subject to imprisonment for not more than two years, although there are several steps. Requiring owner information and limiting real estate use is a type of progress, but this act does not actually prohibit foreign nationals from buying property.
There are obstacles in place hindering Japan’s efforts to limit foreign land purchasing. They are described in an article by attorney Yasuhiko Horiuchi posted on The Sankei Shimbun website on July 5, 2021, “Issue of Land Acquired by Foreign Nationals: Further Legislation is Needed.”

The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), which Japan joined in 1994, is a hindrance. This international rule prohibits disparities in the treatment given to Japanese and foreign citizens (ensuring equal treatment of foreigners and Japanese people). Back then Japan could have reserved the right to ban foreign nationals from owning land. Unfortunately, it did not do so with the aim of attracting investments from around the world.
Horiuchi concludes his article as follows:
However, land acquisition by foreign citizens is an issue that affects the existence of our nation. The Japanese real estate market is too free and open to the world, posing a risk that foreigners could buy up land at any time. We must not feel relieved by the recent legislation; Japan should step up its approaches to GATS member states and hold discussions to overcome the barrier of this international rule.

 Like Kobori says, territorial integrity is a duty of the state. And as Horiuchi writes, Japan must take on the important project of regulating real estate transactions by foreign nationals to protect our territory, which includes working to influence other countries. Although territorial integrity is an exceedingly important topic, it does not draw much interest in Japan. I think this is due to the mass media and educational system that have disregarded the necessity of territorial integrity. And unlike Europeans and other citizens of continental countries, Japanese people have believed that our island nation is safe, resulting in a low level of wariness. But with the existence of ships and aircraft, we cannot assume the ocean will protect us. We must also be fully on guard against real estate purchasing to obstruct important facilities, and take steps against this in advance. The media should focus more coverage on this issue as well.

The expanding China has increased military spending by more than 60% over the past 10 years

 China is steadily growing its economic and military power in a bid for hegemony. Its ambition is to swallow up its neighbor Japan in some form or another. A Taiwan crisis is likely in the near future, but a crisis could also occur in Japan. Today we should bear in mind the ancient Roman saying, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” The ideal type of peace does not come from being ruled by or ruling another country – it is achieved through a balance of power. We do not need overwhelmingly superior strength, but we require a level of fighting power that makes enemies aware they will incur great costs when attacking Japan. Logical countries would not attack in that case. However, an enemy will feel a stronger desire to attack if they think fighting would cost them very little, which is why wars occur.
 On April 24, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) published an article titled, “3.7% Year-on-year Increase in Global Military Spending, Factors Include Russian Invasion.” According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Sweden, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has resulted in a 3.7% year-on-year rise in global military spending compared to 2022. Although the United States increased its spending by just 0.7%, China boosted its spending by 4.2%. China has continually enlarged its military spending for the past 28 years in a row, and today it is 63% higher than 2013. Looking at this, it makes sense to me that Japan has also expanded its spending by 5.9%, the largest increase since 1960. War will break out unless we maintain a balance of power against China’s rapidly growing military force. We must augment the JSDF for this purpose.

The news media should give genuine thought to Japan’s future

 On Constitution Memorial Day (May 3), all of the newspapers ran editorials referring to constitutional amendment. The Yomiuri Shimbun wrote, “The Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) House of Representatives Review Board has organized points at issue regarding revisions to Article 9. They are calling for discussions on topics such as clearly specifying the role of the JSDF and stipulating civilian control of the military. The JSDF is fulfilling more duties in addition to its original defense functions, such as protecting Japanese nationals and making international contributions. It would be greatly significant if the constitution clearly stated its roles.” The Sankei Shimbun supported the proposal to add a clear stipulation about the JSDF to the constitution, writing, “We must have sound diplomacy and defense to protect our citizens from a variety of threats. Like other democratic states around the world, we could ensure peace by making the JSDF into a military, which would enhance our deterrence and ability to respond to threats based on individual and collective defense.” “The LDP and Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) advocate for adding a clear statement about the JSDF to the constitution.” “Many constitutional law experts say this would resolve the abnormal situation of today, in which the JSDF are unconstitutional.” Meanwhile, The Asahi Shimbun merely voiced the commonplace, ignorant opinion of the left wing regarding security issues: “The Fumio Kishida administration has embarked on efforts to obtain capabilities for striking enemy bases. This renders meaningless Japan’s fundamental ‘exclusively defense-oriented policy’ according to the pacifist constitution. If the government makes an incorrect decision, it could potentially carry out a preemptive strike in violation of international law, and may also inspire other countries to attack.” All militaries across the globe have counterstrike abilities, which they exercise in line with international law. Why is Japan the only nation for whom this would pose the immediate risk of breaking international law? Asahi also makes the even more nonsensical claim that having these capabilities would induce other countries to attack. If that were true, more conflicts would be occurring around the world right now. This newspaper has absolutely no understanding of the basic fact that a balance of power brings peace, and that military strength provides deterrence. The Asahi Shimbun also published the results of a public opinion poll on May 3, showing that citizens have a better understanding of this issue. According to the poll, 52% of respondents were in favor of Japan having counterstrike abilities and 40% were opposed. Asahi’s editorial did not actually cover constitutional theory. On the Cabinet decision process for the three security documents, for which there were no procedural issues of any sort, the editorial made the ridiculous claim that “the absence of any civilian discussion runs contrary to democracy.”
 On the same day, The Yomiuri Shimbun published its own public opinion poll in which 54% were in favor and 38% were opposed to the LDP’s proposal of adding a provision about the JSDF. It seems that some citizens are coming to understand this plan for clearly describing the JSDF in the constitution. In Kishida’s video message for the 25th Public Constitution Forum on May 3, he expressed his will to revise the constitution, including a JSDF provision. He stated, “Japan is facing the most serious and complex security environment of the postwar era, including attempts to change the status quo through the unilateral use of force, as well as repeated ballistic missile launches by North Korea. It is extremely important for Japan to sufficiently define the position of the JSDF in the constitution.” Considering the growing level of understanding about national security, I believe we should facilitate lively discussions among the people of Japan. To encourage this, we need more detailed talks in the National Diet. The media should convey proper national security viewpoints, rather than simply repeating its left-wing reporting of the past. To maintain peace in Japan and East Asia, citizens should bear the cost of increased defense spending and the JSDF’s capabilities should be augmented to achieve a balance of power. The media still has major influence among citizens when it comes to maintaining territorial integrity, boosting defense spending to ensure peace, and constitutional reform. I keenly hope the news media will step up its reporting with a genuine focus on Japan’s future.

May 15 (Monday), 5:00 p.m.