Japan’s Foreign Minister says the country will sign a treaty on child abductions, addressing one of the few rifts in relations with its main ally the United States.
Japan has not signed or ratified the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which requires the return of wrongfully held children to the countries where they usually live.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, whose conservative Liberal Democratic Party returned to power last month, made the announcement during a visit to Washington.
“The government of Japan is intending to go through the necessary procedures for early conclusion of the treaty,” Mr Kishida told a news conference with the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
Ms 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 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 able to be achieved,” he said.
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 counter-measures such as cancelling official visits or refusing export licenses for products if Japan does not act.
The previous Japanese government’s position had initially heartened US officials, but their hopes dimmed as Tokyo delayed action on the Hague treaty and indicated that a ratification would only apply to future cases.
Japanese critics of the Hague convention have previously argued that the country needs to protect women from potentially abusive foreign men.