• Kyodo

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The city of Zushi in Kanagawa Prefecture may file a lawsuit late this month seeking to force the government to end its plan to expand a U.S. military housing complex in an area that extends into both Yokohama and Zushi, municipal officials said Tuesday.

“We have decided to ask for a judicial decision because there is no prospect of a political solution to the issue,” Zushi Mayor Kazuyoshi Nagashima said.

Japan and the United States agreed in July 2003 to build an additional 800 housing units in the Yokohama part of the 288-hectare Ikego residential area for the U.S. forces in exchange for the return of four military sites in Yokohama.

Zushi opposes the decision to construct the five or more 20-story buildings, saying the central government broke a 1994 promise not to build additional facilities in the area.

Some 850 U.S. military housing units were built in the Zushi part of the Ikego area between 1993 and 1998.

Zushi sent a written request to the central government Tuesday afternoon, asking it to drop the construction plan and setting an Aug. 23 deadline for a reply, the officials said.

The city is meanwhile preparing to file the suit because it believes the central government will not yield.

Defense Agency chief Shigeru Ishiba said in July the plan cannot be called off because there are no other options, the officials said.

“The (original) Ikego housing units were constructed on the basis of an agreement between the government and the city that there would be no additional construction,” Nagashima said. “We have urged the Defense Agency chief and other government officials to honor the agreement, but there is no prospect that the issue will be settled on a political level,”

Zushi is expected to ask the court to recognize that the central government has a duty not to build the additional units in accordance with a 1994 promise made by it, the city and the Kanagawa Prefectural Government.

The central government said the plan does not constitute breaking its promise as the construction site is within Yokohama.

But Zushi claims there is a contradiction because the central government treated the Ikego district as one area — comprising both the Yokohama and Zushi areas — when the 1994 promise was made.

Many of the local residents near Ikego, close to the U.S. Yokosuka Naval Base, have opposed the U.S. military housing since the 1980s.

The Ikego residential area sits on what was a postwar U.S. munitions depot.

There was controversy when the area turned residential, as local residents said it would destroy the forest.

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