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LDP gets behind the Hague Convention

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Now that a majority of the Diet appears to support joining the international treaty on settling cross-border child custody disputes, the government expressed determination Thursday to push for quick ratification of the 1980 Hague Convention.

The Liberal Democratic Party’s joint foreign and legal affairs policy panel gave the green light Wednesday for the government to sign the convention, making it almost certain that the necessary legislation will be enacted before the Diet session ends in June.

The LDP panel is expected to formally approve the bills next Tuesday.

“We’re now making our utmost efforts to conclude the convention quickly,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

Some members of New Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, had been cautious about approving the treaty and related bills, fearing that Japanese mothers who flee domestic violence overseas could lose protection.

But New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi said Tuesday the party is willing to approve the treaty by the end of this Diet session.

The Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party, is expected to get on board because it had submitted similar bills to the Diet last year.

“(Joining) the Hague Convention is important for our country as well,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the Lower House Budget Committee on Wednesday.

Abe has cited the increase in international marriages in recent years as another reason for joining the convention.

The number of international divorces involving a Japanese spouse more than doubled to about 19,000 in 2010 from about 7,700 in 1992, which has meant a corresponding increase in the number of cross-border disputes over child custody.

Japan is the only member of the Group of Eight richest countries not to join the convention.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the U.S. government had requested Tokyo help solve 81 alleged child abduction cases involving a Japanese parent as of last September, while the British and Canadian governments have sought help on 39 cases each and the French government 33 cases.

During his first summit with President Barack Obama in Washington next week, Abe is expected to express his determination to have Japan join the Hague Convention.