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

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.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/9803796/Hopes-raised-for-British-parents-denied-access-to-children-in-Japan.html

Hopes raised for British parents denied access to children in Japan
British parents denied access to their children with Japanese partners will be given renewed hope when the government here announces that a bill to ratify The Hague Convention is to be put before the Diet.

SWIRE_2452521b
MR Swire is the first British minister to visit Japan since Shinzo Abe was elected prime minister in mid-December Photo: Cathal McNaughton for the Telegraph
By Julian Ryall, Tokyo5:23PM GMT 15 Jan 2013

Dozens of foreign parents – usually fathers – are being refused contact with their children after their partners moved to another part of Japan, with courts invariably ruling that the child is better off with a single parent. In the eyes of judges in Japan, the preferred parent is always the Japanese parent.
At present, there are 37 British nationals involved in child custody cases that would be covered under The Hague Convention on the abduction of children, while numerous other requests for access have been registered with foreign embassies here.
Hugo Swire, the Foreign Office minister, welcomed the Japanese government’s decision after talks with Shunichi Suzuki, the parliamentary senior vice-minister for foreign affairs, in Tokyo on Tuesday.
“There does seem to have been significant movement on this issue and we have been told that this legislation is to be submitted to the Parliament here,” Mr Swire told The Daily Telegraph.
“This issue has been going on for a long time and we welcome this news,” he said.
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Japan is the only G7 nation not to have signed The Hague Convention, which dates from 1980 and requires a parent accused of abducting a child to return them to their country of habitual residence.
A formal statement on Tokyo’s decision is expected on Wednesday, in part due to growing international pressure for Japan to fall into line with other G7 member states.
With more than 34,000 marriages involving a Japanese and a national of another country each year, there are an estimated 20,000 children born to mixed-nationality couples annually.
Yet when such relationships break down, the Japanese parent has until now been able to avoid sharing custody or even providing access to her former partner by simply moving away. Japanese living abroad have only need to get back to back to Japan to be protected by the legal system.
Under Japanese law, parental abduction is not considered a crime, although foreign nationals who have attempted to re-abduct their children have in the past been charged with kidnapping and imprisoned.
The first British minister to visit Japan since Shinzo Abe was elected prime minister in mid-December, Swire arrived in Tokyo on Monday evening to open the UK-Japan Politico-Military Talks on Tuesday.
His discussions with his Japanese counterparts included defence co-operation and potential joint development projects, education issues and British companies’ expertise in clearing the debris left by the March 2011 earthquake in north-east Japan.
The two sides also discussed ethical investment in Burma and shared concerns over the “isolated, rogue, pariah state” of North Korea, Swire said.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20130117a9.html

Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013

Hague pact on fast track, Abe to tell Obama
Kyodo
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will tell U.S. President Barack Obama when they meet, probably in February, that he wants to speed up the procedure for Japan to join the international treaty on settling cross-border child custody disputes, sources said Wednesday.

The previous administration led by former Democratic Party of Japan leader Yoshihiko Noda had already made participation in the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction an international commitment.

The Abe team is aiming to submit a bill to the Diet early this year to endorse the convention, which sets rules for the prompt return of children under 16, taken or retained by one parent following the failure of international marriages, to the country of their habitual residence.

Domestic legislation is necessary to join the convention, but a related bill was scrapped when the Lower House was dissolved in November.

Among the Group of Eight nations, Japan is the only one yet to join the convention and has been facing calls from the United States and European countries to get on board soon.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20121231a4.html

Monday, Dec. 31, 2012

CABINET INTERVIEW
Altering nonnuclear principles not on the table, Kishida says

By MIZUHO AOKI
Staff writer
The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is not considering revising the three nonnuclear principles that forbid the possession, manufacture or storage of nuclear weapons on Japanese soil, new Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida says.

Fumio Kishida
In a group interview with the media recently, Kishida said the Cabinet is not discussing relaxing the principles so that U.S. ships can carry nuclear arms when visiting Japanese ports. In July last year, a report by the Liberal Democratic Party’s national strategy office advocated altering the three principles to “2½.”

“The three nonnuclear principles are very important rules that previous Cabinets have valued,” said Kishida, 55, who was appointed foreign minister on Wednesday. “This should be kept in the future. We are not having a discussion on a revision.”

Unlike Abe, the former state minister for Okinawa and Northern Territories affairs is not regarded as a hawk. In fact, his appointment is viewed by some as an effort by Abe to placate foreign governments.

“I know that Abe’s Cabinet is considered rightwing or hawkish. But we have to explain (to the public that) there is a positive side as well, such as to execute things that we must do as a nation,” Kishida said.

“But I think it is also important to show our breadth . . . and show a sense of balance,” Kishida said, adding he hopes to help bring balance to the Cabinet.

However, he showed no compromise on the Senkakus dispute with China, insisting that the islets in the East China Sea are historically, and by international law, part of Japan.

He also emphasized that it was important to keep the lines of communication open with China to avoid any incidents.

Since Japan purchased three of the five Senkaku islets from their Saitama-based owner in September, Chinese vessels have been cruising near or inside Japan’s territorial waters around the disputed islets, which are called Diaoyu in Chinese. On Dec. 13, a Chinese state-owned plane breached Japanese airspace for the first time on record near the islets.

On the issue of nuclear weapons, Kishida, a native of Hiroshima Prefecture, said he wants to work toward abolition.

Noting that the Nonproliferation and Disarmament Initiative, a 10-country coalition formed in 2010, will be holding ministerial-level talks in Hiroshima in 2014, Kishida said he wants to use the opportunity to improve cooperation with other nations.

As for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Kishida said the LDP remains opposed to entering into negotiations as long as they are premised on abolishing all tariffs without conditions.

“If the prime minister visits the United States sometime soon, I presume (they) will touch on the TPP issue,” Kishida said.

As for joining The Hague Convention against child abductions by estranged parents, Kishida only said that relevant parties will be looking into the matter.

In March 2011, the DPJ government decided to prepare to ratify the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects on International Child Abduction.

“It is embarrassing that Japan can’t even have discussions about this issue due to confusion at the Diet,” Kishida said.

The government submitted draft legislation for joining the convention to the Diet in March, but it has been shelved due to confrontation between the ruling and opposition camps.

A graduate of Waseda University, Kishida worked at the defunct Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan before starting his political career as a secretary to his father in 1987. Kishida won a seat in the Lower House in 1993.