http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130219/japan-eyes-change-over-snatched-kids

Agence France-PresseFebruary 19, 2013 23:00
Japan eyes change over snatched kids

(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be under pressure when he meets US President Barack Obama this week to pledge progress on a long-stalled treaty to prevent the snatching of children by a Japanese parent in international divorce cases.

Abe is expected to promise that Japan will follow through on a decades-old pledge to ratify the Hague Convention on child abduction, giving some legal muscle to hundreds of foreign fathers — including Americans, French and Canadians — kept apart from their half-Japanese children.

“Those are only the reported cases,” French Senator Richard Yung told AFP during a recent trip to Tokyo to press officials on the issue.

Japan is the lone member of the G8 industrialised nations — the others being the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Russia and Canada — not to have adopted the 32-year-old international treaty.

Key allies including the US, France and Britain have long demanded Tokyo step into line.

Diplomats say ratification of the Hague Convention could come during Japan’s current parliamentary session, which ends in the summer.

That would make it the 90th state to adopt the treaty, which is aimed at securing “the prompt return of children wrongfully removed or held” in another treaty state.

“These cases are particularly cruel — birthday or Christmas presents are returned,” said Yung, who added that he met a vice foreign affairs minister but was refused a sit down with Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki.

The changes would also offer hope to hundreds of thousands of Japanese fathers who face similar estrangement under domestic custody laws.

Japan is unique among major industrialised nations when it comes to the children of estranged parents.

Courts do not recognise joint custody — for foreigners or Japanese nationals — and almost always order that children live with their mothers, leaving desperate fathers with almost no recourse to see their children.

Many lose touch with their offspring if the ex-spouse blocks access, a common occurrence due to the widely held opinion that child rearing is a task for women, while men earn the money.

Yasuyuki Watanabe, the deputy mayor of a small Japanese town, has not seen his daughter in years. After the country’s devastating 2011 quake-tsunami disaster, he says he tried to make contact with the now five-year-old girl.

“And my wife called the police on me,” he said.

Michael, a foreigner who has lived in Japan for three decades, had a messy divorce that ultimately saw two of his three kids tell a Japanese court they had no wish to ever see their father again.

That, he says, was the product of “brainwashing” by his ex-spouse. Michael, which is not his real name, has never met his two grandchildren.

Sometimes, judges do order the custodial parent to send photos of a child to their former spouse, or to allow a short monthly visit.

But police almost never intervene when those orders are commonly ignored.

Ratification of the convention would not automatically change Japanese laws, but it offers hope for hundreds of thousands of Japanese men cut off from their kids, including Watanabe who said he recently met with the justice minister.

“I told him how the judicial system is malfunctioning and that judges encourage these abductions, whether it is international or in Japan,” he added.

But ratifying the treaty alone is no silver bullet and there are fears that future changes to domestic laws could lack both scope and substance, warned Yung, who cited public opinion as the biggest weapon in winning the fight for access.

Richard Delrieu, president of advocacy group SOS Parents Japan, has not seen his own half-Japanese son in years and also said that ratifying the treaty alone won’t change things overnight.

“This situation is not worthy of a great country like Japan,” he said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130219/japan-eyes-change-over-snatched-kids

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http://www.japantoday.com/category/politics/view/abe-to-meet-obama-in-washington-on-feb-22

Abe to meet Obama in Washington on Feb 22
POLITICS FEB. 16, 2013 – 03:05PM JST ( 10 )

TOKYO —
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will hold talks with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on Feb 22, with North Korea high on the agenda.

Abe will leave Tokyo next Thursday on a four-day U.S. visit, accompanied by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who is planning to meet new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news briefing on Friday.

Abe and Obama will use their first summit to “exchange views on wide-ranging issues, not only bilateral relations but also the situation in the Asia-Pacific region including the North Korean question, and to clearly demonstrate an enhanced Japan-U.S. alliance,” he said.

Abe, who took power after his conservative party won an election landslide in December, is expected to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade initiative amid antipathy at home toward the U.S.-led scheme.

The two leaders held telephone talks on Thursday and agreed to seek tougher sanctions on North Korea two days after the communist country carried out its third nuclear test in defiance of international opposition.

© 2013 AFP

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/02/15/national/ldp-gets-behind-the-hague-convention/#.USJvjqXBG5K

From Japan Times:

LDP gets behind the Hague Convention
BY REIJI YOSHIDA
STAFF WRITER
FEB 15, 2013
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.

Please sign the following petition, which is to be delivered to Secretary of State John Kerry:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Japan_to_sign_The_Hague_Convention_on_The_Civil_Aspects_of_International_Parental_Child_Abduction/?cCbXXdb