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Japan to pick tech items from 20 fields to focus on economic security

Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers attend a meeting on economic security at the party headquarters in Tokyo on July 19, 2022. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan will narrow down advanced technology items to enhance development, procurement and leakage prevention from 20 sectors under its recently enacted economic security law, a draft of the basic guidelines showed Tuesday.

    The 20 sectors include artificial intelligence, hypersonic transport, semiconductors, space, public health and cybersecurity, with the government planning to use a 500 billion yen ($3.6 billion) fund to be established to promote the development of cutting-edge technologies through public-private cooperation.

    Once the government decides on which technologies to focus on, it will recruit research and development personnel by the end of the year, according to the guidelines, expected to be approved at a Cabinet meeting in late September.

    If researchers breach the confidentiality of their operations, they could face a prison term of up to one year or a fine of up to 500,000 yen, according to the draft.

    These technologies are "the source of state power, and major economies have been pouring human resources, an immense amount of money and time into research and development," Takayuki Kobayashi, the minister in charge of economic security, said at a regular press conference after a Cabinet meeting.

    A U.S.-China trade spat and the coronavirus pandemic in recent years exposed the fragility of supply chains and highlighted the need to strengthen the domestic development and procurement of key products, such as chips, medical goods and equipment.

    China's rise in the high-technology industry is also behind Tokyo's plan. Its rise has intensified global competition and spurred a rapidly changing security environment that has also been aggravated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, requiring greater measures to prevent sensitive technologies from being leaked.

    The government presented the draft guidelines at Tuesday's meeting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

    A law was enacted in May to beef up the country's economic security. It makes certain patents related to sensitive technologies nonpublic and requires the government to screen equipment that infrastructure operators install to mitigate vulnerabilities to cyberattacks and other threats.

    Core measures to be set under the law will take effect in steps starting next spring.

    The law also stipulates that Japan will strengthen supply chains to ensure the stable procurement of semiconductors and other vital products.

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