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Japan's economic security law takes effect amid regional tensions

From left, Japanese Economic Trade and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi,Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo stand for a photo during the U.S.-Japan Economic Policy Consultative Committee (EPCC) at the State Department in Washington, on July 29, 2022. (Tom Brenner/Pool Photo via AP)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Part of a new Japanese economic security law came into force Monday to secure the stable supply of vital products including semiconductors and to support the development of crucial technologies amid heightened geopolitical concerns.

    The crucial part of the law, enacted in May, took effect ahead of other provisions as China's growing influence intensifies global competition in the high-technology field and with the security environment rapidly changing amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

    The latest part consists of two pillars -- reinforcing supply chains to stably procure vital products and facilitating the development of artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies through public-private-sector cooperation.

    The law's two other pillars are infrastructure screening by the government in such sectors as telecommunication and transportation to mitigate vulnerability to cyberattacks and other threats, as well as withholding certain patents related to sensitive technologies from public view.

    These are expected to come into force in stages from next year.

    Takayuki Kobayashi, minister in charge of economic security, told reporters on Monday that the government launched the same day an office with about 50 personnel from various ministries and agencies to promote the country's economic security.

    Working out of the Cabinet Office, the newly created office will prepare basic guidelines on developing resilient supply chains and public-private sector cooperation for approval by the Cabinet in late September, the minister said.

    "Legislation on economic security draws attention from countries around the world," Kobayashi said, adding, "We would like to give our best to the execution of the law and tackle new challenges" that emerge along with it.

    One of the issues still to be worked out is the introduction of security clearance for officials and researchers who will handle vital and sensitive information, a system that currently does not exist.

    Kobayashi said enactment of the economic security promotion law was also noted in a joint statement the foreign and economy ministers of Japan and the United States issued at their inaugural "two-plus-two" talks in Washington on Friday.

    Against the backdrop of challenges posed by China and Russia, the statement emphasized that economic security is indispensable to overall security, and that diplomacy and economic policy are intertwined and require a coordinated approach.

    The two countries promised to pursue the joint development of next-generation semiconductors at a research hub to be launched in Japan, as well as foster supply resilience in other strategic items, such as batteries and critical minerals.

    Since Japan alone will not be able to build resilient supply chains for strategically important goods, cooperation with like-minded partners will be essential, Kobayashi said.

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