Japan PM promises US to join child abduction treaty

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told US President Barack Obama on Friday that Tokyo would join a treaty on child abductions, addressing a major concern for lawmakers in Washington.

Japan is the only member of the Group of Eight major industrialized nations that has not signed the 1980 Hague Convention, which requires nations to return snatched children to the countries where they usually reside.

"From the perspective of children, there is an increasing number of international marriages, meaning that there will be some cases where marriages will break down. Therefore we believe it is important to have international rules," Abe told reporters after talks with Obama.

"We will make efforts in the parliament so that the Convention can be approved. I delivered this message to the president," Abe said.

Abe, whose conservative Liberal Democratic Party swept back to power in December, did not set a timeframe. A previous left-leaning government also said it wanted to enter the treaty but did not move ratification through parliament.

Unlike Western nations, Japan does not recognize joint custody and courts almost always order that children of divorcees live with their mothers.

Hundreds of parents, mostly men, from the United States and elsewhere have been left without any recourse after their estranged partners take their half-Japanese children back to the country.

US lawmakers have repeatedly demanded action from Japan on child abductions, one of the few open disputes between the close allies.