Japan and the United States have reached a basic agreement to start talks on the return of idle land in four U.S. military facilities in Yokohama, according to Japanese government officials.
The land is likely to total some 250 hectares. If an agreement is reached, it would be one of the biggest land deals involving the return of U.S. military facilities to Japan in recent years.
The return of the idle land, which has been raised in Diet, is expected to be taken up, possibly as early as next month, at a meeting of the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee, a bilateral body to discuss U.S. military issues in Japan.
The U.S. military facilities targeted for negotiation are the Kamiseya communications facility, which occupies 242.2 hectares in Seya Ward; the Negishi residential zone, a 43.1-hectare facility in Naka Ward; the Tomioka storage area, a 2.9-hectare facility in Kanazawa Ward; and the Fukaya communications facility, a 77.4-hectare unit in Totsuka Ward.
A senior Foreign Ministry official said Wednesday night that both sides are serious about starting substantial discussions.
But a senior Defense Agency official cautioned that no deal has been completed.
“Even though there is a lot of interest in the local communities involved, the fact is the two sides are still looking for an agreement,” the official said.
Yokohama Mayor Hiroshi Nakada said Wednesday the city has asked the U.S. military to return the idle land in the four U.S. military facilities for urban development. He said he understands that these facilities are the subject of negotiation between the U.S. and the national government.
“At the present moment, I think it is important to stay prudent on the outcome of the negotiations,” Nakada said.
’73 accord disclosed
The Foreign Ministry on Thursday made public a Japanese translation of a 1973 Japan-U.S. agreement on environmental cooperation that specifies steps to be followed if environmental pollution occurs at a U.S. military facility.
The document states that when such pollution has a high possibility of having an impact on the welfare of the local community, municipal governments can ask the local commander of the U.S. military to conduct investigations.
It states that the results of such investigations must be reported to municipal governments as swiftly as possible.
The document says that if the local commander approves, municipal governments can inspect the site of the pollution and obtain soil samples.
If the Japanese government decides an inspection is necessary, how it will be conducted must be discussed at the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee, according to the document.
The Foreign Ministry coordinated with the United States to disclose the document after ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Taro Kono requested that it be made public.
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