Hague pledge fails to appease U.S. lobbyists

Talk of joining cross-border child abductions treaty 'insincere'


Leaders of U.S. groups lobbying for the return of children abducted by a parent across international borders reacted with skepticism to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s explanation to U.S. President Barack Obama that Japan is close to joining a convention to resolve such incidents.

“The fact that they are not even addressing current cases does not give me much confidence in Japan’s sincerity on this issue,” Paul Toland, coordinating director of Bring Abducted Children Home, said in an interview.

Toland’s group lobbies on behalf of parents whose children have been abducted by an estranged spouse to Japan, which has yet to ratify the 1980 Hague Convention of the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Toland has not seen his 10-year-old daughter since she was 1, after she was spirited away by her Japanese mother who has since died.

The group estimates that more than 374 children with an American parent have been similarly abducted to Japan. The Diet is expected to pass legislation in May to approve Japan’s accession to the Hague accord on cross-border child kidnappings.

Mitsuru Munakata, founder of the Joint Custody Action Network in Tokyo, argued that the Hague Convention is only being used for political means. “Japan has been under international pressure on this issue for at least 10 years. Announcing it will join at this point is just a stopgap measure,” Munakata said.

Yet Patrick Braden, who established Global Future, another group working on the issue, said he is “cautiously optimistic” and “grateful to Prime Minister Abe” for Japan’s belated move to join the treaty, although he added that “none of us will celebrate until we see children returned.”

Braden said the Hague Convention might deter some would-be abductors, but stressed that the terms on which Japan joins must not leave any loopholes. His own daughter was taken to Japan from the U.S. by his former wife in 2006. The girl is now 7, but he has not seen her in six years.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who held talks in Washington with Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday, said the top U.S. diplomat welcomed Japan’s efforts to ratify the accord.

Their discussion also touched on Japan’s ongoing sovereignty dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The islet cluster falls under Japan’s jurisdiction but is claimed by both China and Taiwan. Kerry praised Tokyo for its “restraint” in responding to the heightened tensions with Beijing.

“I want to compliment Japan on the restraint it has shown, and its efforts to try to make sure that this does not flare up into a significant confrontation,” Kerry said at the outset of their meeting at the State Department.

Kerry also reaffirmed the U.S. position that the Senkaku Islands are covered by the Japan-U.S. security treaty, obliging Washington to come to Tokyo’s defense if the islets come under armed attack, and added that the United States opposes any unilateral actions to weaken Japan’s administration of the chain, Kishida told reporters afterward.

Kerry’s remarks echoed comments made by his predecessor, Hillary Rodham Clinton, when she met with Kishida in Washington last month.

Meanwhile, Kishida said he asked Kerry to visit Japan and he replied by saying he will travel to Asia at an early date, and that he hopes Tokyo will be one of the destinations.

During the meeting, Kerry, who slammed North Korea’s nuclear test earlier this month as “very reckless behavior,” remarked that the U.S.-Japan alliance is “strong,” and further noted that “our security commitments to Japan are real, and we stand behind them.”

Kishida thanked Kerry for Washington’s support and called the bilateral alliance “a lynchpin of Japanese foreign policy,” adding Tokyo aims to further reinforce the security relationship.

  • Interesting how Japan allows children to be abducted from the US (US citizens) and other countries to Japan, but is still very upset about the North Koreans abducting Japanese citizens. Two faces.

    • douglas black

      This article only mentions the abductions from America. There are more from other countries as well. And, these are just a part of the problem. Kids are often suddenly separated from a foreign parent while living inside Japan, never to be seen again. There are no established rights for the children to see their parent. Ask me, I know.

      And yes. Two faces indeed.

  • “Promises fail to appease lobbyists?” Is that what the Japanese government proposes to do?
    In Kyodo news, the source of this article, the title indicated that the GOJ’s promises “do not satisfy parents.” Why? Because we want our kidnapped children returned home from the country to which they have been kidnapped; and would like to see the kidnappers held accountable for their crimes. The Government of Japan by this account continues to disavow responsibility for the decades of child abduction it has supported through its courts and its consulates, with full knowledge of government officials at the highest levels.
    When did fathers and mothers get reduced to political “lobbyists”? When their children were abducted. And now through this manipulation of language, Japan Times and its friends in the government seek to dehumanize traumatized parents and children whose human rights are overtly abused by the Japanese state.

  • Japanese women don’t think they “abduct” their own children.The children rightfully belong to them.

    • Dianne Olsen

      And they think wrong because the majority of these Japanese women don’t have legal custody of the children.