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.

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.