Child abduction treaty comes into force in Japan

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan on Tuesday enacted an international treaty on cross-border child custody disputes, more than three decades after it was agreed and after years of pressure from Western allies.

The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction came into force after the cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe endorsed last year's decision by both houses of parliament to approve the treaty.

"Since the number of people who move across borders has dramatically increased and international marriage and international divorce have increased in recent years, the Hague Convention is very important for the government of Japan," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Japan was the only member of the Group of Seven major industrialised nations not to ratify the convention, which requires nations to return snatched children to the countries where they usually reside.

Japanese courts virtually never grant custody to foreign parents, which has previously left few legal avenues for those whose former partners have fled to Japan with their children.

Hundreds of US parents have complained that they have been left unable to see their half-Japanese children. At least 120 have filed cases in Japan, invariably to no avail.

US lawmakers have long demanded Japan fall into line on the issue, one of the few open disputes between the close allies.

There has also been pressure from several European countries, including France and Britain.