Ambassadors from the U.S. and seven other countries on Saturday urged Tokyo to resolve legal custody issues that keep foreign parents from visiting their children in Japan.
Under Japanese law, a single parent gains full custody of children in divorce cases, and it is usually the mother. This leaves many fathers cut off from their children until they are grown.
In addition, Japan has not signed on to a global treaty on child abduction. So when international marriages go sour, Japanese mothers can bring their children home and refuse any contact with foreign ex-husbands, regardless of custody rulings in other countries.
The long-standing issue gained increased attention last year, when American Christopher Savoie was arrested in Japan after his Japanese ex-wife accused him of taking their two children as they went to school. Amid accusations of kidnapping from both sides, Mr. Savoie was eventually released and allowed to leave the country, on condition he leave his children behind.
On Saturday, U.S. Ambassador John Roos, together with ambassadors and envoys from Australia, France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada and Spain met with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada to discuss the issue.
They emphasized the welfare of children involved in such disputes, saying they should have access to both parents, said a joint statement issued after the meeting. The ambassadors urged Japan to sign the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, which all eight countries have done.
“We also urged Japan to identify and implement interim measures to enable parents who are separated from their children to maintain contact with them and ensure visitation rights, and to establish a framework for resolution of current child abduction cases,” the statement said.
Japan’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying Mr. Okada explained that Tokyo recognized the importance of the issue and was working toward a resolution.
Tokyo has argued in the past that signing the convention could endanger Japanese women and their children who have fled from abusive foreign husbands.