Japan says will sign child abduction treaty

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Japan's foreign minister said on Friday that the new government would sign a treaty on child abductions, addressing one of the few rifts in relations with its main ally the United States (US).

Japan has not signed or ratified the 1980 Hague Convention, which requires the return of wrongfully held children to the countries where they usually live, but a previous left-leaning government had said it planned to do so.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, whose conservative Liberal Democratic Party returned to power last month, said on a visit to Washington that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government would take the same stance.

"The government of Japan is intending to go through the necessary procedures for early signing of the treaty," Mr Kishida told a news conference with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Mrs Clinton said she hoped that Japan's parliament would pass legislation on the Hague treaty during its upcoming session.

Japanese courts virtually never grant custody to foreign parents or to fathers, leaving few legal avenues for fathers whose former partners have fled to Japan with their children.

US parents have pursued at least 120 cases in Japan to seek access to half-Japanese children, invariably to no avail. The US Congress has repeatedly pressed Japan to take up the issue.

The previous Japanese government's position had initially heartened US officials, but their hopes dimmed as Tokyo delayed action on the Hague treaty and indicated that a ratification would only apply to future cases.

Japanese critics of the Hague convention have previously argued that the country needs to protect women from potentially abusive foreign men.

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