Japan Tightens Screening of Foreign Researchers to Prevent Tech Leaks

Japan Tightens Screening of Foreign Researchers to Prevent Tech Leaks
The Japanese national flag is seen at the Bank of Japan headquarters in Tokyo on March 16, 2020. (Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP via Getty Images)
Aldgra Fredly

Japan has tightened its screening process for foreign researchers applying for visas, including requiring them to disclose work histories, as part of measures designed to prevent technology leaks.

Foreign researchers seeking entry into Japan must submit their past research papers and an eligibility certificate from their employers. They also will need to declare the purpose of their travel and the location of their stay in Japan, Nikkei Asia reported.

Japanese universities also have been asked to enhance scrutiny of foreign students and scholars to prevent espionage on campuses.

Under the new guidelines, universities are required to conduct background checks and flag people of interest, such as those with ties to foreign governments or defense-related institutions.

The new screening is designed as an additional layer to immigration visa procedures.

Until recently, for example, a Chinese scholar subsidized by their government had few hurdles in pursuing a doctoral course in cutting-edge radar technology in Japan and then returning home to use the study for military purposes.

The same scholar might well have been rejected as a high-risk candidate in the United States, where the stakes are high for universities: along with the individual, they can be held liable for any breach in export controls.

Many Japanese universities are desperate to fill places as the number of student-age citizens declines in an aging population, and foreigners have provided a lifeline.

Chinese students made up 44 percent of Japan’s 279,597 foreign university students in 2020, according to government data, while the United States was the top destination for Japanese researchers, followed by China, in 2019.

China’s Efforts to Undermine US Fed

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the ranking Republican member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, released a report (pdf) last month detailing China’s efforts to target the U.S. Federal Reserve since at least 2013.

The report stated that China sought to recruit U.S.-based economists to share information in exchange for monetary gain and other benefits.

The Fed had identified 13 persons of interest as having connections with Chinese talent recruiters or having patterns deemed of “potential concern.” These individuals, dubbed the “P-Network,” were working across eight of the regional Fed banks, according to the report.

“This investigation makes clear that China’s malign efforts at influence and information theft are not limited to science and technology fields—American economic and monetary policy is also being targeted by the Chinese government,” Portman said.

The issue was compounded by “a lack of internal counterintelligence competency at the Federal Reserve or sufficient ongoing cooperation with Federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies.” the report said.

“Left unchecked, these gaps continue to present China with an open avenue to disrupt the integrity of the American financial system, jeopardizing U.S. national security.”

Reuters contributed to this report.
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