The United States, Canada, France and the U.K. jointly urged the Japanese government Thursday to sign the Hague Convention on international child abduction, which is aimed at preventing parents from wrongfully keeping or taking their children to their countries before and after they divorce.
« Our joint statement demonstrates that very clearly Japan’s allies are united in their concern regarding this tragic issue of international child abduction, » said Michele Bond, a deputy assistant secretary for consular affairs for overseas citizen services at the U.S. Department of State, at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. « We are acting together at this point to ensure that our concern for the children is heard. »
Diplomats from the U.S., Canadian, French and British embassies attended the press conference.
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multilateral treaty that entered into force between signatory members on Dec. 1, 1983.
The convention states that children who are abducted from their country of residence, or retained in a state that is not their country of normal residence, must be returned promptly to their original country of residence.
More than 80 countries have signed the convention, but Japan is the only nonsignatory state among the Group of Seven nations.
Among abductions involving Japanese whose parents have wrongfully taken or kept their children, Britain has reported 36 cases since 2003, with none of them resolved. There are currently 11 active cases, said David Fitton, deputy head of mission to the British Embassy in Japan. France has had 26 cases, half of which are still active, and the U.S has 73 active cases.
The diplomats said the numbers are expected to rise along with the uptrend in international marriages.
« We also believe that the increasing number of marriages between Japanese and foreign nationals will further intensify the problem on both sides, » said Christophe Penot, deputy head of mission to the French Embassy in Japan.
Because of this, James Zumwalt, charge d’affaires ad interim of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, said they feel a sense of urgency.
Bond said she met officials at the Foreign and Justice ministries who told her that the government is « very seriously and carefully considering signing » the convention.