The United States pressed Japan Thursday to let parents see children snatched by estranged partners, saying it would not tolerate loopholes as Tokyo moves to resolve the longtime source of tension.
Western nations have voiced concern for years over citizens' struggles to see their half-Japanese children. When international marriages break up, Japanese courts virtually never grant custody to foreign parents, especially men.
Hoping to ease a rift with allies, Prime Minister Naoto Kan has voiced support for ratifying the 1980 Hague treaty that requires countries to return wrongfully held children to their countries of usual residence. Japan would be the last member of the Group of Seven industrial powers to sign it.
Testifying before a congressional committee, senior U.S. official Kurt Campbell said that the United States was "quietly" speaking to Japan about the domestic laws that will accompany the Hague treaty.
"We will not rest until we see the kinds of changes that are necessary and we will certainly not abide by loopholes or other steps that will, frankly, somehow negate or water down" the agreement, said Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia.
Japanese critics of The Hague treaty often charge that women and children need protection from abusive foreign men. Japanese lawmakers are considering making exceptions to the return of children if there are fears of abuse.
Campbell voiced confidence that The Hague treaty already included safeguards.
He also urged Japan to give parents greater access outside of the treaty. If Tokyo ratifies the convention, it would only apply in the future and not to the 123 ongoing cases in which U.S. parents are seeking children in Japan.
"We are prepared to use all necessary political and legal means necessary to facilitate contact and access for parents and abducted children," Campbell said.
But under questioning from lawmakers, Campbell indicated that the United States was not pushing for a separate agreement on existing abduction cases, saying that for Japan "it's a complete non-starter."
Representative Chris Smith, who has championed the abduction issue, pressed for an agreement on current cases. He feared that Japan's entry into The Hague Convention would "result in lost momentum" as no children would immediately return.
"Delay is denial, and it does exacerbate the abuse of a child and the agony of the left-behind parents," said Smith, a Republican from New Jersey.© AFP