For one Japanese mother long separated from her children after the failure of an international marriage, the Diet's expected ratification of an international treaty to help settle cross-border child custody disputes arouses mixed feelings.

"Personally, it's too late for me, but I feel we've come this far at last because the problem is not limited to me," Hiroko Suzuki, 44, said in a recent interview.

Japan is expected to accede to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction by the end of this year after completing all domestic procedures. The pact sets out rules and procedures for the prompt return to the country of habitual residence of children under 16 taken or retained by one parent, if requested by the other parent.