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Japan seeking unpaid rent from U.S. Embassy



Japan may consider suing the U.S. Embassy over 10 years of unpaid rent on state-owned land in the heart of Tokyo, sources said.

The embassy had paid the Japanese government an annual 2.5 million yen ($21,897) for the 13,000-square-meter plot in the Akasaka district of Minato Ward in the central part of the capital.

But in 1998, the Japanese government proposed to gradually raise the rent to around 10 times that level.

Washington strongly objected, and has since refused to pay anything.

Since the statute of limitations for the 1998 rent will expire in mid-December this year, Japan has negotiated with Washington, with the possibility of a lawsuit in mind, the sources said.

A representative of the U.S. Embassy said it is continuing talks with the Japanese government and expects the matter to be resolved.

A lease agreement for the government-owned land was signed by both governments in 1890.

The rent went up twice, in 1974 and 1983, in accordance with inflation.

Under a provision in the Civil Law, claims for rent expire in five years. However, the Japanese government, in writing, asked the embassy for the rent in December 2002, ultimately pushing the statute of limitations back to December this year.

The annual 2.5-million-yen rent for a prime location close to the Diet building and government ministries is "certainly a bargain," according to a source in the real estate business.

In comparison, the rent for the 35,000-square-meter plot of state-owned land where the British Embassy sits in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward is an annual 35 million yen ($306,574).

The U.S. and British embassies are two of four embassies in Japan that are located on state-owned land.

The Japanese government's position is that it "cannot make an easy compromise at a time of financial difficulties, although the relationship with the United States is naturally important," an official said.

There is the possibility that the two sides might compromise on a political level.

But if the two governments fail to reach common ground before the statute of limitations expires, legal action may take place between Tokyo and Washington. (IHT/Asahi: October 29,2007)

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