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YOKOHAMA, Japan — The Yokohama District Court on Wednesday dismissed a local city’s claim that the Japanese government promised not to expand the U.S. Navy’s Ikego housing area.

Presiding judge Yoshiteru Kawamura said the issue should not be decided by a court.

“This claim is not something that can be conclusively resolved by applying the law,” Kawamura said. The court delivered its verdict without hearings.

Court documents state there are 854 housing units at Ikego, which is a satellite housing area for Yokosuka Naval Base. The housing area straddles Zushi and Yokohama cities and lies about 3.7 miles from the Navy base.

Zushi city officials claim the Japanese government and Kanagawa Prefecture promised in 1994 not to build additional housing units anywhere in Ikego on the Zushi or Yokohama portions. The city filed a lawsuit against the government in September to hold them to that promise, officials stated in court documents.

Japanese government officials claimed in their statement submitted to court that it was an administrative agreement to maintain and secure the city’s public interest and has no legal binding.

The U.S. and Japanese governments agreed in 2005 to build 700 additional housing units on the Yokohama side of Ikego to replace housing facilities the Navy plans to give back to Japan.

“I strongly protest today’s verdict that tramples on Zushi residents’ feelings,” said Zushi mayor Kazuyoshi Nagashima after the court ruling. He said the city plans to appeal the decision to the Tokyo High Court.

“Today’s verdict was a result of the national government’s claim being understood by the court and we evaluate that the appropriate decision was made,” Yoshiyuki Jibiki, Defense Facilities Administration Agency general affairs chief, stated in a news release. “We will continue to make efforts to achieve the understanding of the local communities.”

The U.S. Navy has not been involved in the case and had no comment on Wednesday’s ruling, said Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Japan spokesman Cmdr. John Wallach.

“This is a matter between Zushi City and the central government,” he said.

Allison Batdorff contributed to this report.

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.
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