Japan moved one step closer to adopting a long-delayed treaty on child abductions on Friday when the cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave its approval, a government spokesman said.
Japan is the only member of the Group of Eight major industrialised nations that has not joined the 1980 Hague Convention, which requires children be returned to their usual country of residence if they are snatched during the collapse of an international marriage.
Hundreds of non-Japanese parents, mostly men from the United States and elsewhere, have been left without any recourse after their estranged partners took their children back to Japan.
Unlike Western nations, Japan does not recognise joint custody and divorce courts usually award custody of children to their mothers.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said following cabinet approval, the government would swiftly submit the necessary legislation to parliament.
"It is important for our country to join the Hague Convention that sets international rules on dealing with illegal kidnapping of children, now that the numbers of international marriages and international divorces have increased," he said.
Last month, Abe visited US President Barack Obama in Washington and promised that Tokyo would join the treaty.
For the past few years, Japan has promised to join the treaty, but has never moved it through parliament.
US lawmakers have repeatedly demanded action from Japan on child abductions, one of the few open disputes between the close allies.