January 27, 2003 10:00 AM

Britney Spears’s problems with an alleged stalker from Japan are due to a “cultural misunderstanding,” the defendant’s lawyer told a Los Angeles courtroom Friday, reports Reuters.

The pop princess, 21, is seeking a restraining order against Masahiko Shizawa, 41, claiming he had sent her photos of himself and a note saying “I’m chasing you.”

In attempting to explain the Shizawa’s message, attorney Simon Hiller said, “He’s a VIP in Japan. He had no intent” to disturb her. No further details were provided.

Spears has requested that Shizawa be kept 1,000 yards away from any place she might surface: her house, workplace or car. In her court papers, she alleges that since last September, Shizawa has been stalking her at the homes of her divorced parents, her own California residence and another house she owns outside the state.

According to the syndicated TV show “Celebrity Justice,” Shizawa, who reportedly is a millionaire computer programmer, has been forced to return to Japan after his U.S. visa expired. He also has been stopped twice while trying to return to the U.S.

Neither Spears nor Shizawa was in court for Friday’s hearing, which had been delayed for a month.

The attorney for Spears declined to comment on the case, which is now scheduled to be heard on Feb. 28.

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