WASHINGTON – Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida announced the government will sign the Hague Convention on cross-border parental child abductions, addressing one of the few sources of tension in Tokyo’s ties with Washington.
Japan has yet to ratify the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which requires the return of children to their country of origin if they are wrongfully taken overseas by one of their parents. The previous Democratic Party of Japan-led government had also planned to sign the convention.
Kishida, whose conservative Liberal Democratic Party returned to power in December, said during a visit to Washington that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government would adopt the same stance.
“The government is intending to go through the necessary procedures for the early signing of the treaty,” Kishida told a joint news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. “We will make our best efforts so that the early ratification of the convention will be achieved.”
Clinton said she hoped the Diet would pass legislation on the accord during its next ordinary session, which is expected to kick off later this month.
Asked about the time frame Clinton is pushing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Masaru Sato said the government is serious about taking action, after previous LDP administrations avoided the issue for years due to concerns by Japanese mothers that their children could be returned to abusive spouses overseas.
Japan’s courts virtually never grant custody to foreign parents or to fathers, leaving few legal avenues for male parents whose Japanese partners have fled home with their children.
Hundreds of parents in the United States have complained that they have no recourse to see their children by Japanese spouses. At least 120 have filed cases in Japan, invariably to no avail.
The U.S. Congress has repeatedly pressed Tokyo to take up the issue, with one lawmaker last year proposing countermeasures, such as the cancelation of official visits or the refusal of export licenses for products if Japan does not act.
The DPJ government’s position initially heartened U.S. officials, but their hopes dimmed as it delayed action on the treaty and indicated that a ratification would only apply to future cases.
Domestic critics of the Hague Convention have previously argued the country needs to protect Japanese women from abusive foreign spouses.