Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to tell U.S. President Barack Obama that Japan will join the Hague Convention on cross-border parental abductions of their children as soon as possible, according to government sources.
Abe will unveil his plans when he meets with Obama during his expected visit to Washington late this month, the sources said Friday.
The United States has been calling on Japan to ratify the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction at an early date.
The government apparently hopes to use the planned move as a step toward improving Japan-U.S. relations at a time when it has still been unable to make concrete progress on the nation’s possible — and highly contentious — participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade accord and the long-stalled relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture.
Japan’s entry into the Hague Convention was approved at a Cabinet meeting in May 2011 during the Democratic Party of Japan’s term in office. Related bills were later submitted to the Diet, but they were scrapped in line with the dissolution of the House of Representatives last November.
Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party retook the reins of government after scoring a landslide victory in the Dec. 16 general election, ending the DPJ’s three-year rule.
The LDP had previously failed to clarify its stance on the treaty, which seeks to repatriate children abducted by foreign spouses after becoming estranged from their partner. At Thursday’s Lower House plenary session, however, Abe said his government will aim for an early entry into the treaty, signalling he intends to resubmit the legislation to the Diet.
A senior government official the same day asked the LDP-led ruling coalition to complete the necessary procedures to send the bills to the legislature before Abe’s visit to the United States.
On Friday, Abe held discussions on issues related to the convention with Kenji Hiramatsu, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Foreign Policy Bureau, and Takuya Miyama, director general of the Civil Affairs Bureau under the Justice Ministry.
The Hague Convention, which took effect in 1983, stipulates that if one parent removes their child out of the country of residence and the other parent files a complaint, the government of the nation where the child is taken to must repatriate it and take steps to settle the custody dispute.
The convention has 89 member countries. Of the Group of Eight major developed countries, only Japan has yet to become a member.
Obama has repeatedly urged Tokyo to ratify the treaty, as an increasing number of Americans are complaining that their children have been taken to Japan by their estranged Japanese spouses.
But some LDP officials strongly oppose joining the treaty because there appear to be many cases in which Japanese wives living overseas have returned home with their children to escape domestic violence and abusive home environments.
The LDP and its coalition ally, New Komeito, are expected to begin discussions on the issue shortly, but the talks may face rough going, the sources said.