Japan Moves to Ban Chinese Drone Sales to Government Agencies

ban on Chinese techOn the heels of recent U.S. government efforts to ban Chinese drones for official use, Japan this week announced a similar plan.

According to a Reuters report, several government insiders say the initiative would shut out China from selling any drones to Japanese agencies in an effort “to protect sensitive information … as part of a broad effort to bolster national security.”

“The primary concerns, those people said, centered on information technology, supply chains, cyber security and intellectual property – worries that have been rising outside Japan as well,” the report notes.

An unnamed senior government official revealed to Reuters that, while Japan is deeply dependent on China as a trade partner, “there are worries that advanced technologies and information could leak to China and could be diverted for military use.”

Currently, Japan’s defense ministry deploys several hundred drones, several of which are manufactured in China. In addition, the coast guard has 30 – mostly Chinese – drones. Both agencies tell Reuters they don’t use drones on security-related missions.

The report goes on to add:

“It’s unclear whether all would need to be replaced, but the new drones, used for sensitive work such as criminal investigation, infrastructure work and emergency rescues, would have to be secured against data leaks and go through stricter vetting procedure.”

Although neither the American nor Japanese bans specifically mentioned China, government insiders confirm the world’s largest drone exporter is the primary target.

Last month, the U.S. justice department finalized a similar measure, forbidding any agency using DOJ funds from purchasing drones from “Covered Foreign Entity,” defined as:

“Any entity that is determined or designated, within the Department of Justice, to be subject to or vulnerable to extrajudicial direction from a foreign government.”

Experts say the wording of the ban directly addresses China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law, which requires Chinese companies to cooperate with the government. Other regulations could require companies to provide access to their network assets upon demand.  (See a third-party explanation of China’s National Intelligence Law here.)


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