Japan Asks Colleges, Universities To Screen Foreigners To Prevent Technology Theft

Japan is asking colleges and universities to scrutinise foreign students and scholars in a bid to improve national security and prevent espionage. The country has been seen by experts as the weak link among its Western allies for how warmly it welcomes foreigners to study in its soil.

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According to Reuters, to safeguard ties between U.S. and Europe universities, the Japanese government is now stepping up screening in the academia and imposing penalties on breaches. The move was driven by the arrests of Chinese academics in the U.S. in recent years over suspicion of spying and leaking technological secrets back to China. While Japanese officials did not cite a specific incident, they said combatting espionage in the educational sector is an aspect that needs improvement.


"Around the world, export controls are getting more stringent on foreign nations like China," an anonymous Japanese trade ministry official who works with colleges on solutions to monitor high-risk technology transfers told Reuters.


"We want Japanese universities to be trusted for their security and trade controls so that joint research with the United States or Europe can continue," added the official.


The new guidelines, which will take effect later this month, requires colleges and universities to conduct background checks and flag people of interest, namely "those with ties to foreign governments or defense-related institutions". Screening was previously limited to people potentially sending sensitive information out of Japan. The extra screening is being added on top of existing measures like immigration visa procedures.


The Academics that are running these institutions, however, aren't sure how effective the new system will be, emphasising how it's not part of their training to catch spies. But the process is said to be voluntary and can be done through surveys determine whether foreign students are being sponsored by the state or intend to deal in sensitive technology.


Such security issues arise because Japanese universities are struggling to find local enrollees as the country's ageing population grows even larger. Foreigners have kept these institutions operating in the last few years. Chinese students, for instance, made up 44% of Japan's 279,597 foreign university students in 2020, according to government data.


"Universities need money so they keep bringing in international students but some have little sense of crisis," Masahiko Hosokawa, a former trade ministry official, told Reuters.


The campaign is reportedly part of a new effort to expand export controls to promote the newly passed economic security bill aimed at guarding sensitive technology. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to reaffirm its close partnership with the U.S. on technology and supply chains, among other areas, during President Joe Biden's this week in Tokyo. The meeting is set to place amid growing tension between the U.S. and China.

 
  • Japan is asking colleges and universities to scrutinise foreign students and scholars in a bid to prevent espionage and technology theft.

  • The new guidelines, which will take effect later this month, requires colleges and universities to conduct background checks and flag people of interest, namely "those with ties to foreign governments or defense-related institutions".

  • The campaign is reportedly part of a new effort to expand export controls to promote the newly passed economic security bill aimed at guarding sensitive technology as well as to maintain close ties with the U.S. and other European allies.









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