• Kyodo

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The Yokohama District Court on Thursday dismissed a suit filed by a landowner demanding the state return land it had leased and provided to the U.S. military for a communications facility.

Shigenori Mori, 60, argued the lease with the state is invalid because the land has not been recently used for its original purpose.

But presiding Judge Teruo Takayanagi dismissed Mori’s argument in his ruling, saying, “It is interpreted that the lease contract holds until the state receives the land from the U.S. forces.”

The judge also said it was irrelevant to the case whether the land is still being used as a communications facility.

According to the court, Mori’s father signed a lease with the state in 1977 for a 2,200-sq.-meter lot to be used for the U.S. Kamiseya communications facility.

Mori, an employee of the Yokohama Municipal Government, later inherited the land from his father. The communications facility is located on about 240 hectares, of which about 110 hectares are private land.

The U.S. forces used the facility to communicate with military ships and aircraft as well as to monitor military radio signals in the Far East during the Cold War.

However, the U.S. military has been removing antennas since the early 1990s, and most of the communication monitoring personnel withdrew by 1995.

One of the focal points of the litigation was the interpretation of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement regarding the use of land.

Mori noted that the agreement stipulates that land is to be immediately returned when a facility becomes unnecessary and demanded that the government ask the United States to return it.

But the government says it has a duty to continue leasing the land until the U.S. returns it in accordance with the pact.

Mori had also filed suit against the U.S. government, but the court dismissed the claim and refused to hear any oral arguments on the case.

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