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U.S. military officials denied reports Thursday that they have agreed to discuss returning about 600 acres of land in Yokohama, including the Navy’s Negishi housing area.

Japanese broadcaster NHK and the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper announced that the Japanese and U.S. governments had started negotiations earlier in the week. The areas included Negishi, parts of Kamiseya, which houses a communications facility, a transmitter site at Fukaya and an old warehouse at Tomioka. NHK even said Negishi residents would be relocated to the Ikego housing area if the plan went through.

The final decision on returning any land is made through the U.S.-Japan Joint Committee, which consists of representatives from U.S. Forces Japan, their counterparts in the Japanese government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and U.S. Embassy officials.

“The joint committee has not agreed to release any of these facilities and has not yet agreed to study this issue,” said Cmdr. Dave Wells, a Commander Naval Forces Japan spokesman. “I cannot speculate on what the joint committee might discuss in the future.”

At any time, Wells said, “the U.S. Navy has under consideration numerous plans concerning the most efficient use of our facilities worldwide. In the event any significant changes to the use of facilities in Japan are contemplated, the government of Japan and the public will be notified.”

The committee meets every other week to discuss issues of mutual concern, such as the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement and installations.

“The press reports are inaccurate, and we’ll not speculate on what the joint committee might consider in the future,” said Air Force Col. Vic Warzinski, a U.S. Forces Japan spokesman.

Takashi Ohigashi of the Japan Defense Facility Administration Agency’s facility department said Kamiseya and Fukaya have been discussed in the past. He was surprised, however, to see Negishi included in the recent report.

Seiichiro Taguchi of the Foreign Ministry’s SOFA division said landowners have previously requested the return of unused land.

“The Japan and U.S. sides are probing how and where they will discuss the issue,” he said. “It is all at the start of the whole discussion and there is nothing concrete on the matter as reported in Japanese newspapers.”

In 1999, the Asahi Shimbun reported that USFJ offered to hand over portions of Negishi, which was built in 1948, and Kamiseya in exchange for new housing construction on bases. That would have amounted to about 445 acres. Those reports were never substantiated.

Warzinski declined to say if a land proposal was brought up in the past.

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