Japan and the United States agreed in principle Friday to the return of idle land at four sites in Yokohama currently overseen by U.S. forces, Foreign Ministry officials said.

The agreement was reached on condition that Tokyo build additional housing in the Ikego residential area that straddles Yokohama and the city of Zushi, Kanagawa Prefecture, they said.

Once finalized, the accord would be one of the largest deals involving the return of U.S. military-owned land in recent years. The accord was reached in a meeting of the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee.

The U.S. military occupies some 528 hectares of land in Yokohama. The total area of land that would be returned to Japan under the agreement comes to about 365 hectares.

The sites to be returned are the 43.1-hectare Negishi military residential area in eastern Yokohama, part of a communications facility in Kamiseya measuring 242.2 hectares, a 2.9-hectare warehouse area in Tomioka and a 77.4-hectare communications center in Fukaya, the officials said.

Japan will consult with local government authorities before reaching a final decision on the matter, hopefully by the end of the year, they said.

The U.S. government is to return the four plots of land in exchange for Japan building about 800 homes and related facilities in the Ikego district. There are about 390 houses in the Negishi housing zone, but the facilities are old, according to Japanese officials.

The two sides agreed to build the new housing in a location that will be convenient for military personnel to commute to the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka.

During meetings of the joint committee’s facility coordination panel, Tokyo has been urging Washington to return the four facilities since February.

However, the plan is expected to draw opposition from Japanese residents near Ikego, many of whom originally opposed the construction of the facility there in the 1980s.

Summer deadline set

NAHA, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) A facility to take over the functions of the U.S. military’s Sobe Communications Site in the town of Yomitan, Okinawa Prefecture, will be completed by next summer, it was learned Friday.

Tokyo and Washington have agreed to relocate the communications facility, dubbed “The Elephant’s Cage,” to the town of Kin.

The new facility will have a total of 17 antennas with a height of some 12 meters, sources said.

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