Japan’s foreign minister said on Friday his country’s new government would join a treaty on child abductions, addressing one of the few rifts in relations with its main ally the US.
Japan has not signed or ratified the 1980 Hague Convention, which requires the return of wrongfully held children to the countries where they usually live, but a previous left-leaning government had said it planned to do so.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, whose conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) returned to power last month, said on a visit to Washington that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government would take the same stance.
“The government of Japan is intending to go through the necessary procedures for early conclusion of the treaty,” Kishida told a news conference with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Clinton said she hoped that Japan’s parliament would pass legislation on the Hague treaty during its upcoming session.
Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Masaru Sato, asked about the timeframe urged by Clinton, said that the government was serious about taking action.
“We will make our best efforts — all we can — so that early conclusion of the convention will be achieved,” Sato told reporters in Washington.
Japanese courts virtually never grant custody to foreign parents or to fathers, leaving few legal avenues for fathers whose former partners have fled to Japan with their children.
Hundreds of US parents have complained that they have no recourse to see their half-Japanese children. At least 120 have filed cases in Japan, invariably to no avail.
The US Congress has repeatedly pressed Japan to take up the issue, with one lawmaker last year proposing countermeasures if Japan does not act.
The previous Japanese government’s position had initially heartened US officials, but hopes dimmed as Tokyo delayed action and indicated that ratification would only apply to future cases.
Japanese critics of the convention have argued that the country needs to protect women from potentially abusive foreign men.