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With LDP nod, Hague bills face May Diet OK

Kyodo, Staff Report

The Diet will approve the nation joining the international treaty on settling cross-border child custody disputes, possibly in May, lawmakers said Tuesday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party agreed to endorse a set of bills needed for the country to join the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction during the ongoing ordinary Diet session.

The convention sets out rules for the prompt return of children under 16 years of age, taken or retained by one parent following the failure of an international marriage, to the country of their habitual residence.

So far, 89 nations have joined the convention, and Japan is the only one from the Group of Eight nations, which also include Britain, France, the United States and Russia, that is not a signatory.

The United States, Japan’s closest ally, and other countries have been calling on Tokyo to join the convention at the earliest possible opportunity.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the U.S. government had asked Tokyo help resolve 81 alleged child abduction cases involving a Japanese parent as of September, while Britain and Canada have sought help on 39 cases each and France 33 cases.

Abe, who became prime minister for the second time in December, is set to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on Friday, and during their summit, he is expected to tell Obama that there has been progress toward participating in the treaty.

The previous government, led by the Democratic Party of Japan, submitted related bills to the Diet last year, but they were scrapped in November when the House of Representatives was dissolved.