Breaking News
Get Actionable Insights with InvestingPro+: Start 7 Day FREE Trial Register here
Investing Pro 0
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your experience. Save up to 40% More details

With eye on China, and U.S. ties, Japan's universities to screen foreigners

World May 22, 2022 11:45PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items

By Ju-min Park

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan is asking universities for greater scrutiny of foreign students and scholars to prevent technology leaks to places like China, partly for its own national security but also to safeguard exchanges with U.S. and European universities.

While many Western countries have measures to prevent espionage on their campuses with strict screening and penalties for breaches, experts say Japan has been a weak link given its often-unchecked embrace of foreign students.

A string of U.S. arrests of Chinese academics in recent years over suspicion of spying was a wake-up call for Japan, officials say.

"Around the world, export controls are getting more stringent on foreign nations like China," said a Japanese trade ministry official who helps colleges develop ways to monitor high-risk technology transfers and students.

"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," said the official, who declined to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to media.

At a time of debilitating supply-chain disruptions, intellectual property theft and cyberattacks, economic security has become a top priority for policymakers globally and a vital area of diplomatic cooperation.

Officials did not point to a specific incident in Japan that prompted the campaign but said rather that Japan has needed an improvement in the area, not least so colleges can maintain ties with U.S. and other Western partners.

The drive to step up monitoring in academia is part of a push to expand its export controls, in tandem with a new economic security bill passed this month.

As Western tension with China grows, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and visiting U.S. President Joe Biden are expected to reaffirm greater coordination on technology, supply chains and other areas this week in Tokyo.


Under the new guidelines, effective this month, universities are being asked to conduct background checks and flag people of interest, such as those with ties to foreign governments or defence-related institutions.

Previously, screening had been limited to cases of people trying to send potentially sensitive information and goods overseas.

The new screening is designed as an additional layer on top of immigration visa procedures.

Until now, for example, a Chinese scholar subsidised by his or her government would face few hurdles taking a doctoral course in cutting-edge radar technology in Japan, and then go home to put the research to use 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.

The U.S. embassy in Japan said it welcomed the revised guidelines. In an emailed statement to Reuters, it said the United States would look for new ways to help Japan and its universities protect against what it called "real and serious" research security challenges in both countries.

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

Chinese students made up 44% 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.


But questions remain over how effective the new system will be and some academics say they simply are not cut out to be spy catchers.

The process is voluntary and relies on little more than surveys to determine whether foreign students are getting state grants or intend to deal in defence-related technology.

Takahiko Sasaki, who oversees export controls at Tohoku University, said his college would seek written pledges from staff not to teach sensitive technology to students or other faculty members with ties to foreign government entities without permission.

That would be on top of an existing policy asking foreign faculty and students to submit a pledge in writing to abide by Japanese export control regulations, he said.

"We are not intelligence operators. Checking resumes and academic records - that should be the extent of our job as a university."

Immigration authorities are known to have missed the transfer of sensitive technology in the past.

Japan's intelligence agency learned that nine Chinese researchers had returned home to work in the defence sector after studying technologies for hypersonic missiles at Japanese institutions for years, media reported last year.

"Universities need money so they keep bringing in international students but some have little sense of crisis," said Masahiko Hosokawa, a former trade ministry official who was in charge of export controls.

"They should find ways to operate without Chinese nationals."

With eye on China, and U.S. ties, Japan's universities to screen foreigners

Related Articles

Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now
Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now By Reuters - Jul 03, 2022 86

(Reuters) - Ukraine's forces have withdrawn from the bombed-out city of Lysychansk, prompting Russia to claim full control of the eastern Luhansk region, a key Kremlin war goal,...

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email