U.S. agrees to return depot property to Japan
TOKYO — The U.S. military agreed this week to return a chunk of the Navy’s Koshiba Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants Depot in Yokohama City to the Japanese government, officials from both sides confirmed.
The U.S.-Japan Joint Committee approved the handover of about 130 acres of land and a portion of restricted water area covering just over 11 acres, according to news releases issued by U.S. Forces Japan and the Japanese Defense Facilities Administration Agency. In the deal struck Tuesday, the remaining 104 acres of the water area will be renamed and its conditions of use altered to accommodate U.S. ships.
Both sides say they hope the transaction can be completed by the end of the year.
“That’s the goal we’re trying to reach,” said Marine Maj. James Bell, a USFJ spokesman. “This is just another part of our ongoing communications with the government of Japan under that umbrella of the joint committee to try to work with each other to provide the best possible environment for our U.S.-Japan security alliance.”
Koshiba Water Area, formerly known as the retained restricted water surface area, will be limited to American vessels for berthing and the loading and unloading of shipments, the releases stated.
Authorities from both sides agreed that other ships may pass through the channel when it’s not being used by the United States. But unless authorized by American officials, they’ll be prohibited from dredging, sweeping mines, dragging the sea, dropping anchors, fishing and other activities that might damage buoys, mooring chains and other critical equipment.
U.S. officials said they’d “continue to take sufficient safety measures in the operation of its vessels in this area,” according to the USFJ release.
In September 2004, the two governments agreed to return part of the depot and five other Navy facilities in Yokohama in exchange for 700 additional units at the Ikego Housing Area outside Yokosuka Naval Base.
That land encompasses 939 acres collectively and constitutes the largest property return in more than three decades on mainland Japan. It represents more than 70 percent of U.S. military land in Yokohama.
No timetable was set for the transfer and USFJ officials indicated only that they would take the “necessary actions” once the areas were no longer needed.
The locations include the Fukaya Communication Site, Tomioka Storage Area and a portion of the Kamiseya Communication Station, along with parts of the Ikego Housing Area and Navy Annex in Yokohama. Kamiseya’s housing and support facilities won’t be returned until their use has been exhausted. USFJ officials say the Negishi Dependent Housing Area will be returned to Japan after the construction of more housing and support facilities at Ikego.
The Japanese half of the U.S.-Japan Joint Committee is led by the director general of the North American Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Marine Maj. Gen. Timothy Larsen, the USFJ deputy commander, heads up the American side.