U.S. eight years behind on rent for embassy

by Kanako Takahara

The United States hasn’t paid the rent for its embassy in Tokyo since 1998, according to a government document released by the Cabinet on Friday.

The document was produced in response to questions submitted by Social Democratic Party lawmaker Kantoku Teruya of the House of Representatives on Sept. 21.

Japan and the United States met to negotiate rent prices in 1974, 1983 and 1998, but failed to agree on a new contract in 1998, the paper said.

“Since (the two sides) could not reach agreement on a revised contract, which will replace the previous one expired in 1997, the rent for 1998 and after has not been paid,” the paper said.

Japan has been dunning the U.S. government with payment notices and urging Washington to pay in writing, through diplomatic channels and in bilateral talks, it said.

The U.S. paid 2.5 million yen a year between 1983 and 1997 to rent the 13,000 sq. meters of government land it uses for its embassy in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, according to the paper.

At that rate, the U.S. government owes Japan 20 million yen for eight years of unpaid rent from 1998 to 2005.

The Japanese government will not elaborate further because the two countries are still negotiating the issue, according to the paper.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman, who asked not be named, made a similar remark, saying it would not be appropriate or useful to comment.

Meanwhile, Japan charges Britain about 35 million yen a year to rent the 35,000 sq. meters of land its embassy sits on in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward.

The government did not comment on the rent gap in the paper.

“It is not appropriate to simply compare the rent because the conditions of the locations and the timing of contract revisions are different,” it said.

Such a situation is “unfair and unjust” to other nations renting government land for embassy facilities, Teruya said in his request for the government document.

“It is against our national interest when (Prime Minister Junichiro) Koizumi’s Cabinet is an out-and-out supporter of the U.S.,” he said.