Yokohama Mayor Hiroshi Nakata told the Defense Agency on Thursday that he might accept construction of additional U.S. military housing units in Kanagawa Prefecture if the United States reduces the number to be built and returns more facilities to Japan.

But the Defense Agency said these are “very tough demands.”

In July 2003, Tokyo and Washington agreed to build 800 additional housing units in the Ikego residential area, which straddles Yokohama and the city of Zushi, in exchange for the return of idle land at four sites in Yokohama.

The new housing units are to be built on the Yokohama part of the area.

Nakata, like Zushi Mayor Kazuyoshi Nagashima, has strongly opposed the plan, saying the return of these U.S. facilities should be unconditional since a law stipulates that the U.S. must return land and facilities to Japan when they are no longer being used by its forces.

In a last-ditch attempt to break the deadlock, Nakata proposed in a meeting with Defense Agency chief Shigeru Ishiba that Japan demand the return of more U.S. military facilities in Yokohama, including the Koshiba oil storage, and cuts in the number of new housing units for the U.S forces.

“It seems that things are very tough for us because Tokyo and Washington already agreed (on the 800 new units) in principle,” Nakata told reporters after the meeting.

According to Nakata, Ishiba said he realizes “the agony of Yokohama” and would try negotiating with the U.S. But Ishiba also said these are “very tough demands, which would be difficult to be realized,” Nakata said.

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