Tokyo-area facility closures mulled
May 28, 2003
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — American military officials confirmed Tuesday they are discussing consolidating or closing some U.S. bases near Tokyo.
However, Japanese and U.S. officials would not confirm media reports saying an agreement is near on specific proposals.
One report said the Navy’s Negishi housing area in Yokohama would be combined with the Ikego Heights housing area in Zushi.
“I’m not in position to confirm the report,” said Air Force Col. Victor Warzinski, public affairs director for U.S. Forces Japan. “I can say that we have been engaged with the Japanese government in a Facilities Assessment Panel that is looking at some land reuse-and-return issues in the Kanagawa prefecture.”
“That panel meets periodically, and their work continues, but we are not yet prepared to brief out the results of their work,” he said.
A spokesman for the Japanese Defense Facilities Administration Agency — which administers U.S. bases in Japan — denied the reports.
“One of the subcommittees of the U.S.-Japan joint committee held a meeting on Feb. 6,” said Takashi Ohigashi, DFAA facility coordinator. “Both U.S. and Japanese governments agreed to discuss U.S. military facilities and areas in Kanagawa prefecture.”
At a second meeting in February, he said, the panel agreed to focus on the 11 U.S. Naval facilities in Kanagawa prefecture.
“Representatives of the Japanese government introduced requests from local communities and discussions at the Diet on the matter,” he said.
But, Ohigashi said, no specific facilities or plans were discussed at the meeting.
The Japanese media reports also named the communications facility at Kamiseya, a warehouse facility in Tomioka and a communications center in Fukaya.
A spokesman for Yokohama city’s Military Affairs Office said the city had no knowledge of specific negotiations but hopes all eight U.S. military facilities within its borders will be returned.
American military officials said one of the issues driving the talks are housing shortages and inadequacies for U.S. personnel assigned in and near Yokosuka.
At Yokosuka Naval Base, for example, families seeking on-base housing are placed on waiting lists that stretch for as long as 3 years. Yokosuka is one of the bases in which more housing is being built within the existing base perimeter.
Officials say two housing towers scheduled for completion in December should raise the percentage of families living on base from 74 percent to 79 percent, edging closer to a goal of 90 percent.