Chinese buyers have become interested in farmland in Japan, and policymakers in the country are uncomfortable with this.

According to Nikkei Asia, the Japanese government was aware of the sale of land in Hokkaido to an unnamed firm with financial links to China. The land is around 35 km (21 miles) from a Japanese Air Self-Defense Force radar site. 

Policy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Sanae Takaichi, mentioned the transaction in a January meeting, asking if it were a national security issue.

In an op-ed published on Nikkei Asia in September, two active-duty officers in the U.S. military, Ryan Ashley and Alec Rice viewed Hokkaido as a center of great power rivalry historically. They believe the country’s northernmost island has the potential to “again demonstrate its critical importance in the Pacific.”

According to them, China has long regarded Hokkaido as the crown jewel of the North Pacific island chain, and China has spent decades consolidating its economic dominance in the region.

In July, a committee of the Cabinet Office hosted an expert hearing on land use near facilities considered essential to national security. Without specifying any particular nation, an expert warned that it is only natural for foreign militaries to try and learn more about their adversaries’ capabilities.

The expert said, “In contingencies, there is a possibility that the aim switches to sabotage, especially regarding nuclear plants.”

Buyers of Japanese land also include those from Hong Kong, Macao, Australia, Singapore, and the U.S.

The U.S. has also been alarmed about Chinese farmland purchases in critically strategic areas. On the surface, China has spent a decade expanding its sources of agricultural products across borders. The increased land acquisition also tallies Beijing’s emphasis on food security since the pandemic broke out.

That purpose alone already made U.S. lawmakers uneasy. 

This month, GOP nominee Katie Britt said, “I am a big believer that food security is national security. It is mind-boggling that we are allowing the Chinese to buy up American farmland.”

Britt said between 2010 and 2020, China expanded ownership of American farmland from 13,000 to 350,000 acres. In South Dakota, some of those are especially close to military bases.

Fufeng Group, a Chinese agricultural corporation, has acquired 370 acres (150 hectares) of land near Grand Forks, North Dakota. The piece of land is just 20 kilometers from the base of the U.S. Air Force, which houses some of the most advanced drones.

The project has been put on hold while the federal interagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States undertakes a national security review.

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